Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ethnic Children in Utah and the LDS Church.

I've lived in Utah for 18 years. When I first got here, there were hardly any black hair or skin care products, toys, books and so on. For me it was understandable because there just weren't really that many black people living here. Which is why most black people or people of any other ethnicity besides white, don't stay. My sister and I we decided to stay. There must be Pioneering in all aspect of growth. We decided to take it on. If people of different cultures and ethnicity keep leaving Utah, it will never really grow in terms of being a Diverse place.

When my daughter was about 9 she asked me why there were no pictures of any black people on the walls of our home. I was stunned. It made me realize that most of us aren't aware of our children's need to be able to identify thermselves with the world around them.
On our walls were pictures of Christ, a white girl sitting at the knee of Jesus, a white boy just baptized, a white family in front of the temple, the first presidency... you get the point. The portraits are beautiful and positive. But she was trying to identify with how she fits in.

I took a good look around at my apartment. She had fun toys and books and dolls she played with. They were all white. Nothing wrong with that, but culturally, there was something wrong with that. My family it multi Cultural. My stepmom and 4 step siblings and their kids, white. My Dad's brother married a filipeno woman 3 decades ago so their kids are bi-racial. My Brother's first wife was black and french creole, her people were from Louisiana, so their they're bi-racial as well. My Great-Great Grandmother was full blooded Indian, another, great grandmother half black, half white, another, half black half indian.... you get the picture.
I made some choices and decided my home atmosphere should reflect my family. And I needed to find a way to incorporate that with Gospel Principles. Not easy to do in Utah.
I purchased a calendar depicting black art and framed some of the pictures. On a trip to Vegas I found some black greeting cards and framed them as well.
I made come conscious efforts to purchase black dolls, books, videos, even christmas ornaments and decorations. I think one of the most difficult things for me to find in Utah were black dolls that weren't dressed like aunt Jemima or slave looking servants. There were beautiful porclean dolls and barbies and baby dolls in beautiful lace dresses. They were all pretty much white dolls.
I soon began to learn how these things can effect the self esteem of a child. How must if feel to see dolls and toys reflecting your face as servants, or slaves while dolls of other races hand on lacey dresses and hats, or native costume in bright colors and cool accesories. Yeah, I was getting to see things from her point of view.

As the "eternal youth advisor/young women's president" I began to learn what kind of effects these things have on the youth of the church, especially the ethnic youth of the church. I've heard them call each other the racial slurs and the ethnically inappropriate jokes. We need to surround out kids with the positive and beauty of all culturals and diversities.

It's important to children to be able to identify with the world around them. To know there are people and things just like them. It helps to build confidence and and more importantly self esteem.
Although nationally it's easier finding ethnic toys and books, it can still be difficult. I've become part of an affiliation that have ethnic toys, books and dolls of all races: Asian, Bi-racial, black, latin, native american, Pacific Island and yes, white.
So take a look at the website.
I'm also going to have a permanent link to it on this webpage (on the right hand side under the heading JUST LIKE ME.) It is also a perfect website for gift giving. If nothing else, poke around the website.

Every child wants to be able to see and hear things that are "JUST LIKE ME"To see the variety of toys/dolls available for girls and boys of all ethnicity:Click here to browse


Ana said...

Hiya! I'm a white LDS adoptive mom; I have two black sons, one black/white biracial son and one Hispanic daughter. I live in California now but when I was in Utah I found it was easier to find products reflecting and serving children of color out on the West side of Salt Lake. I will definitely be checking out your "Just Like Me" link!

The Pea said...

I love this! Being a white mom with a white family in Utah I have found that my kids just don't realize the world around them. The other day a beautiful black young woman came to our home and my young kids,just being kids, asked why she was black. My boy is 5!!! To old to be asking. I did not realize until then how little he knew. I would love to put these things into my home just to make my children aware of all the beautiful colors in the world.
Thank you for the link!

ShaBANG said...

I am so pleased to be able to provide this resource. I'm also working with some other friends on website dedicated for children of color and their special needs. It's still in the creation stages but hopefuly in the future it will be a wonderful resource for those who want to give their children (of any culture)a educated start on the beauty of diversity and cultural understanding.
the url is

I'll also link that to my "webhood" listing.

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

Stopping by to wish you a blessed and very Merry Christmas! ♥ Hugs :) Shauna

Joycelyn said...

This is awesome, Shabang! My mother tried very hard to surround us with positive things like you are doing, too. I had a little girl praying that was framed and she's a little oriental girl. It is now hanging in my daughter's room.

I used to be in denial about my black azn hair. When I was little I used to say I had dark brown hair like my (white) mother. Now my daughter (1/4 filipina, 3/4 white) is in denial about her dark brown hair and tells me that her hair black like mine. Hmmm. That gives me something to think about!

ShaBANG said...

I was shocked at my daughter's inquiring about black people on the wall. I thought I was exposing her enough but when I realize I wasn't and there was so much more she was missing out on. I went into action. Every February I made a point of watching movies with her like "Roots" "Queen" "A woman called Moses" "Ditch Diggers Daughters" and other shows about black History. I also talked about Black inventors, Blacks in the Military, and in other aspects of life.
IT's funny she just did a report for college on Black inventors and as we were driving through at traffic light she turned to me and said.. "did you know the traffic light was invented by a black man mom?"
I just smiled and nodded.

OH another experience a friend of mine ran into a guy with a bald guy with a shwazticka tattoed on his forarm. My friends is in the military and black. They got into a conversation about how the tattoed man didn't like blacks, thinks they should be shipped off someplace and blah blah blah..
My friend told him that if he really felt that way, he should look up all the things that black people invented and eliminate them from his life.
Few years later a guy bumps into my friend and asks if he remembers who he is. My Friend didn't. It was the shwazticka guy. He actually looked up all the contribution of blacks in america and it changed his lifestyle and view point.
Sometimes you have to open your mouth and be heard and make some challenges to erase ignorance.

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Kristin said...

Thanks for the link! I couldn't find any black dolls at WallMart, but I found some at Babies R Us. I've ordered books with multi-racial kids at Amazon because it's easier than finding them at the bookstore. I want Baylie to have toys, books, etc. with kids from all races so I'm excited about the website.

ShaBANG said...

Oh good. Also pass the link on to friends and family so they can have gifts on hand for her.. and their kids as well. :)

Anonymous said...

I just purchased one of the biracial dolls off your link, I'm excited for it to come for my daughter. Thanks for the link, I think you've found a customer :)

PS I enjoy your blogs, both of them.

Natalie said...

I love your perspective. I'm a YW pres right now in a ward that is very mixed in terms of demographics, and it is so frustrating to me sometimes that a lot of official church things only reflect white descendents of pioneers. I wrote a post about it on Beginnings New if you're interested:

I'll definitely be visiting here more often now.

Beautiful Stranger said...

I was thinking about joining the LDS church(I am black) i am exploring the church right now. Your blog is very informative.

ShaBANG said...

Well i you have any question's or would like to discuss anything just gimme a shout.

Chad and Tina said...

I found your blog and was very touched! I admire you, your strength and your testimony. You are an amazing example to me. My husband and I are not able to have any children biologically, and we are about to adopt a baby boy. We are excited for this moment. Thank you again for sharing so much.

stephanie said...

I am the adptive mother of three beautiful black children. I was so excited when I found paintings of Jesus with black children. I have two displayed in my home and love them.

Love your blog!!

stacer said...

I seem to have missed this post when it first came up, but it was linked on the sidebar of today's post (which was also awesome). I thought you'd like to know--since you might not remember how it started, given that it happened during one of your tough months--that the little publishing company I started in Utah thanks to a million conversations, including with you, is launching next month! You might have seen me talking abt it on FB or whatever, but I figured it was pertinent to mention here that we're publishing fantasy, science fiction, and mystery books for children and teens that feature main characters of color as the heroes. You can find the books here.

Also, for the parents above who were saying they can't find enough books featuring characters of color in the bookstore, check out our parent company, Lee & Low Books: Lots and lots of award-winning, fun picture books, nonfiction, and novels for kids that focus on POC.

Did that website you were talking about above ever go anywhere? Because if you start reviewing books, let me know. :)

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