of Ben Makuh


Book Reviews


The Race-Wise Family [a review]

Race and racism have been scorchingly hot topics the past couple years since the 2020 George Floyd protests. (In saying that, I don't mean to imply that they're new topics, just that there's an increased scrutiny about them lately.) The overall feeling about race right now, though, is that it's something we must fight viciously about in classrooms and courtrooms and behind news desks, but it is not something we can safely talk about among friends and family for risk of inciting a flamewar. For parents, this presents a conundrum: how do you help your children understand a conversation that cannot be talked about? How do you help them develop a posture of leaning toward doing justice, loving mercy, and walking in humility with regard to their racialized society?

This is exactly the task that authors Helen Lee and Michelle Ami Reyes take up in their new book, The Race-Wise Family: Ten Postures to Becoming Households of Healing and Hope. Some folks will of course be suspicious of a book aiming to teach children about race, but they'd miss out on the gentle, humble, and helpful little guidebook that this is. It's not that Lee and Reyes present much that will be groundbreaking for those who have some degree of racial IQ, but that they summarize the issues in a way that is accessible and appropriate for kids of varying ages.

The book is divided up into ten chapters, each a "posture" that a family can develop together such as "valuing multiethnicity" or "opening our hearts to lament." One chapter, "Journeying toward racial healing," is written specifically to parents of color. Each chapter is quite short, composed of a story from Lee's or Reyes's lives about how they've experienced the given problem firsthand followed by working definitions of key terms, a biblical case for the posture, and concrete practices that a family can engage in to develop that posture. Not all practices will apply to every single family, and Lee and Reyes specify when a practice might be helpful for young children, older children, teenagers, or even young adult children. Finally, each chapter ends with a simple prayer expressing that posture.

The chapter I found most helpful for my own family was their final posture, "Raising Kingdom-Minded Children." It's become a somewhat common notion that people who care about racial justice do so only to garner the approval of progressive cultural elites. Of course, caring about racial justice just to garner approval is not a great motivation. As Lee puts it, though, "Standing against racial injustice is part of our Christian witness." In other words, racial justice matters because justice matters, regardless of who approves of you. Lee and Reyes show that to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done" while maintaining an uncaring posture about justice is to fundamentally misunderstand who human beings are to be in this world. It does not make one a Marxist to wish to see a more just society; such a desire is instead firmly rooted in the "kingdom come" vision.

Though appendices typically do not get much attention in a book review, I want to call them out here because these ones are uncommonly good. There are five of them:

  1. The Multiethnicity Quotient Assessment
  2. Kid-Friendly Definitions
  3. Media Suggestions for a Race-Wise Family
  4. Prayers for a Race-Wise Family
  5. Recommendations for Future Learning for Parents

The lists of media suggestions as well as the recommendations for parents are both quite useful, and their kid-friendly definitions are a very helpful reference when you're struggling to figure out how to help a child understand challenging concepts.

If you're convinced that racial justice is a great threat to society and all that is good, this book is most likely not going to change your mind (maybe it will; give it a shot!). If, however, you've found yourself as a parent struggling with how to talk with your children about race-related subjects and current events in age-appropriate ways, The Race-Wise Family could be an excellent resource for you. Get it, keep it handy, highlight it, and use it to spur family discussions. Try practicing some of their suggestions about how to become more race-wise.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.

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