The New Royal Baby and Inclusion – What do they have in common?

The royal baby is here.

Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The world welcomes Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor!  

I have had somewhat of a kinship with Prince Harry. He was the wild child of the monarchy. I was the wild child within my family. When he became engaged, I was delighted to learn that he was engaged to an American of African-American heritage.  

Finally, we have some color within the royal family.  She is quite the stunning African-American Duchess with a chilled personality.  

My daughter is white and African American. Finally, my daughter sees a Duchess with color. 

When my daughter was in the 9th grade, I truly learned of my daughter’s struggles of being African American descent. She was definitely a minority at her school.

One day my daughter broke down into a flood of tears and said, “I hate the color of my skin and I will never be as beautiful as my sisters (who are white). I hate being different than everyone else.” I was completely taken back by her comments. 

I had never heard any of this until that moment in the 9th grade. She said she struggled for years with these feelings and was so jealous of her white sisters. I tried to share with her the list of beautiful black women who are known to many of us. 

She denounced their beauty and said that black women will never be portrayed as beautiful as white women. My heart was crushed to hear this. So you can imagine my delight to have Meghan Markle as a Duchess in the monarchy. 

Unfortunately having a black woman in the monarchy doesn’t change much. Shortly after Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments, which included “Straight Outta Compton”and “Duchess Difficult.”Even Oprah said that Meghan was being treated unfairly in the press.  

But as much as I’m team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, it looks like Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, isn’t excluded from the trope of the “angry black woman”as portrayed in the media by the comment of “Duchess Difficult.””Oh, great another black woman deemed hostile,” I remember thinking to myself.

But even with the racism labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, Archie will be the seventh in line to the throne and the first baby of African American ancestry in the history of British royalty.

This means that a new breed of royalty is here. This symbolizes that times are changing and new beginnings as Archie disrupts white British bloodlines.  

This baby boy will probably not be able to be excluded from racist remarks, but Archie will remind us that mixed families are breaking the boundaries of white people dominating the royal family and he is creating a new history.  

When I think about Archie heading off to school, the word inclusion comes to mind.  Does teaching children about race and skin color help them to become more inclusive of others who are of a different race?  

In the book, Nurture Shock by Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson, it discusses that prior research by Dr. Rebecca Bigler had shown that multicultural curriculum in schools had far less impact than we intended it to have, largely because the message, “we’re all friends”is too vague for children to understand that it refers to skin color.  

You can hear my podcast here with Ashley Merryman, co-author of the New York Times Best Selling book, Nurture Shock

Recent research at the University of Texas tried to get parents to talk about race and different skin color to their children.  Much to the surprise of the research project, parents were quitting because they didn’t want to have conversations with their children that would point out skin color.  

What the research project uncovered was that these white parents had hardly ever discussed to their children directly about race.  They may have made inclusive comments about “Everybody is equal”or “God made all of us”or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”, but they rarely called attention to racial differences. Basically, these parents wanted color blinded children.  

However, the research showed that their children weren’t at all color-blind. When children were asked how many white people are mean, the children’s common answers were, “Almost none.”When children were asked how many blacks are mean, many answered “Some”or “A lot.”Even children who attended diverse schools answered with these kinds of responses.  

When the children of the white parents were asked, “Do your parents like black people”; 14% said, outright, “No my parents don’t like black people; 38% of the kids answered, “I don’t know.”So when parents don’t explicitly talk about race, children are left to come up with their own conclusions. 

We want our children to have social skills to include all of those children in our diverse world.  Do we make it better or worse by calling attention to those of a different race?

So, when Prince Archie starts school, should others say something about his African American heritage? If we say something about it, are we creating a racial construct?

Some think it’s better to say nothing at all about Archie’s African American heritage. Even if we say something positive about how Archie disrupted the white British bloodlines, people worry that we are still encouraging the child to see racial divisions within society.  In other words, let our children figure it out for themselves.  What they see is what they think exists in our world today. We want our children to know that skin color doesn’t matter by telling them to be color blind.

I saw this play out in my own family. I have a daughter who is bi-racial and my other children are white. As stated earlier, my daughter burst into tears in how she didn’t like her skin color.  My white son said to my daughter, I don’t even notice that you are any color at all, I like you because you are who you are.  

My daughter pointed out that comment made her feel even worse. She said it’s as if he didn’t want to recognize that she was half black. It was painful to her because that’s who she is.  She interpreted it as you don’t want to see my black side and why not? Is my black side bad?

So again, do we want our children to know that skin color doesn’t matter? Research shows that we need to teach our children as early as 3 years of age about racial differences.  Let me tell you why we need to do that.

A research project had children (ages 4 and 5-year-olds) dress in red shirts and blue shirts.  They were allowed to play with each other freely at recess and were not grouped together by the color of their t-shirts.  Research showed that the children thought those with the same colored t-shirt were a better team, which would make them more likely to win and they were smarter too.  

The conclusion to that research is that children will use whatever we give them to create divisions. Children are developmentally prone to in-group favoritism.  They will go on to create favoritism all on their own, which is the most clearly visible (race).  

A child will like those that resemble themselves the most. So you can imagine how a minority may feel in a non-diverse school.  My daughter had a friend who was of Asian decent and understood exactly how my daughter felt when she said that she didn’t feel as pretty as others or that she belonged as well to others. 

Research also shows that anything that child doesn’t like belongs to those that look least similar to him/her. Children do not think groups are random.

Children are not color-blind and we should not teach them to be color-blind by not talking about race. We should be comfortable in talking about racial differences early in their lives before they naturally gravitate to create divisions by race.

If we don’t talk about the visible skin color differences, children will interpret the differences to mean what the different color t-shirts meant to the children. We need to let our children know that the children with different skin tones are smart, think like us, feel what we feel, and physically adapt just as we white people think, feel and physically adapt.  

At no point in any of the research did children report being color blind. They see racial differences. 

If we are reading a book and we see a yellow giraffe and a black child, we should point out that there is a yellow giraffe and a black child.  If we don’t point out that there is a black child, your child will wonder why you didn’t see that black child in the story.  He/She may fill in the blank that you don’t like that black child, which is why you didn’t point him out in the story. This is exactly the way some of those children answered the questions from the researcher about their parents. 

 Don’t leave the different skin tone up to your child’s interpretation.  Children are naturally prone to like those that are similar to them,

Children see different skin tones and it’s up to us as parents to point out to our children that this child has black skin, brown skin, or a yellow skin and they think, feel, and are just as physical as our white, brown, black or yellow tone skin of our family.  We need to start early before they create their own divisions.     

When Archie heads off to school, I do hope the other children in his school have been taught to see the beautiful skin tone of the diverse world where we live. 

We don’t know how his African American descent will impact Archie. I am sure Meghan will break her own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of the other black women that came before her. 

I did feel a wild child connection with Harry. However, with my own personal family struggles with different skin tone, this may sound a bit strange but I feel even more connected to Harry and the British Royal family.  

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