Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I am so honored to welcome my guests today. I have Christine Platt and Katherine Wigginton Greene. Christine is the executive director of Baldwin for the Arts and writes literature for children and adults that really centers on African diasporic experiences. Catherine is a writer and filmmaker whose work focuses on strengthening human connection and understanding, and I’m going to put all of their information in the show notes you guys need to take a look at what these women are doing because they’re doing extremely big and powerful things.
It’s really neat to meet you. So they’ve co-authored a book and that’s what we’ve come on to talk about is this book that they’ve written and it’s just come out. When did it come out anyway? Oh, December 5th. Oh, just the other day. One week. One week. One week. Oh, wow. Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining me.
And why don’t we just kind of start with a little bit of introduction, if you wouldn’t mind just telling us a little bit about yourself and yourself as a parent, that would be great. Sure. My name is Christine Platt and I am the mama of one beautiful, fabulous, wonderful daughter who it is still hard for me to believe is a junior in college.
I just don’t know how we got here so fast, but here we are. She’s always been a joy and she’s just. A wonderful little human. And he is a violinist, a music composer, and is living out her dream. Pursuing her degree in music. Yeah. That’s amazing. And I have a 24 year old stepdaughter who is grown, and lives not too far from us and working and college graduate and everything.
And then I have a 14 year old daughter who’s in eighth grade. And I have an 11 year old daughter who is in sixth grade and. A puppy that we got in the pandemic, like everybody else, I never thought that I have a pet, but I also, we also have a dog and that dog is my very best friend. So.
You know, our kids are grown and gone and we have this dog and, you know, I’m not that much of a dog person. I’ll be honest with you, but I really do like Cooper. Boy, is he really become a child, you know, like we cook him homemade food every week. We get him, you know, nuggets if we go to Chick fil A. Yes, I do not recognize myself anymore.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember early on, Catherine, you were like, uh, I’m like, where are you going? It sounds like you’re in the car. You’re like, I’m taking the dog to daycare. And I’d be like, shut up. No way. A Montessori daycare, by the way. A Montessori daycare. Oh man, it was the best memory. The whole other conversation.
Wow, I’m really interested in that. Is it only dogs or are there children there too? No, just dogs. I don’t know why it’s Montessori, but anyway, but we, we could have a whole other episode about all that, I think. Wow, yeah. Well, I had a lot of, I don’t know, that’s just a fascinating thought Montessori dog daycare.
Wow. Okay. Well, what we’re talking about is not that we are talking about young children and what they can teach us about race and friendship. I love this idea of talking about this. I love watching children play together and I love their freedom in that. Yeah. So let’s talk about it. Let’s start with the book.
Tell us the title of what it’s about and why you wrote it and how you, how you came to write it together. Okay, so Rebecca, not Becky, we came together to write this because Christine and I met doing work in anti-racism education. She was running the Center for Anti Racist Research and Policy at American University and organizing the first of its kind national anti racist book festival and invited me to come and screen my documentary that I had been showing for many years around the country titled, I’m not racist.
Am I, where I followed a group of teenagers through a series of workshops on race and then film them having conversations with their family members and with each other about the issues that they were learning about. And so we screened the film there. And so that’s how we met and then continue to work together in lots of areas around anti racism education and became close friends.
And then when George Floyd was murdered. We were doing even more workshops and leading any even more dialogues around race and racism, and we’re noticing, you know, this urgency that was coming about, particularly, I mean, since we’re talking about parenting, we saw a lot of parents. Online, in particular, connecting on social media, trying to figure out what to do.
And there are different ways that people were entering that conversation and wanting to figure out what to do based on their racial identity as well. I mean, the conversations going on in black homes were very different than the conversations going on in white homes. And that’s me just keeping the conversation black and white.
But obviously there’s much more nuance and complexity in terms of lots of identities and in the way this was unfolding for people in America. But there was this urgency for people who were new. To the analysis to engage in a crash course on racism. We saw people posting stacks of books that they had purchased and saying that they were reading all these books and trying to get through the anti-racism syllabus that went viral, except that those were books that are all incredible, but it took us years to read those.
Many of them are very, very academic. And all of a sudden now everybody in the mainstream realm was expected to have this much deeper understanding and analysis of structural racism in America. And we knew that that would not. Last because it is not sustainable. We cannot persist in that way. And we saw a lot of people were, you know, performing allyship and performing anti racism rather than really digging into the world to work to building relationships and finding existing movements to participate in because of course, people were doing anti racist work long before George Floyd.
And so we thought, well, what if we added something to this? What if we tried to have these conversations in a different way? Not that we need to have all of that analysis and academic work going. That’s yeah. Needs to be ongoing, but what if we could create something that’s a little bit more accessible, focused on relationships, focused on women and all that we carry.
And that doesn’t ignore race to really bring people into the conversation. And that’s how we, we started to talk about the book, which I’ll, I’ll now hand it over to Christine. No, I mean, I think, I think you, you know, just stated everything so well. I mean, people were feeling very overwhelmed. I think for a lot of folks, it was the first time they understood.
Sort of this urgency, you know, that people had been talking about for generations in terms of like, we really need to get a handle on this. We really need to dismantle some of these systems of oppression. And I think, you know, because of the climate that we were in, very racially charged, you know, we’re also during the pandemic, everyone is at home and online.
And so there’s like It was just like this perfect storm for people to feel very overwhelmed by the responsibilities of how to manage some of these racialized conversations, how to manage their social media. You know, there was a lot of calling out. I mean, it was a lot going on. And for those of us that were in the field, we know that a lot of that.
Just isn’t productive, right? It’s not really moving the work forward, nor is it bringing people in, as Catherine said, you know, the hat when you have that type of heightened awareness and the spotlight on this major issue, right? Like this idea that there are more people that are going to come into the work is very.
Fighting, but we need to be able to meet them where they’re at. We don’t want them to feel overwhelmed or shamed, right? By what they don’t know. And there was a lot of that going on online. And so Catherine and I decided, what if we co-author a novel that really shows how to move and navigate these spaces, right?
All the bumps, all the challenges, all the discomfort. Through with a little levity, right? And, you know, but also a lot of honesty and the only way that we could really, I thought, and I’m glad Catherine agreed to do that was with a dual narrative, right? Which is me speaking from. The Andrea Whitman’s perspective, which is a new black family that is moving into this idyllic fictional suburb called Rolling Hills.
Although we have heard from many readers that it is not a fictional suburb, it is in fact many neighborhoods. It’s funny, right? I mean, and then, you know, Catherine and I laugh, but it’s, it’s so wonderful because that’s what we wanted to do with this novel, right? Like we wanted people. To not only see themselves, but to see their communities and see some of the things that they’ve been talking about.
So, D’Andrea and her husband, Malik, and their five year old daughter, Nina. Move from the beautiful black oasis to this wider than white suburb of rolling hills, and they are trying to navigate this new space in their lives because this is not a move that was by choice is a move by circumstance and it is because D’Andrea’s mother in law is aging, has dementia, and this is one of the best memory care facilities on the East Coast, right?
So, yeah. Listen, we know we don’t want to be in this all white neighborhood, but this is where we’re going to be because this is what’s best for our mother in law, right, or for her mother in law and her husband’s mother. And she’s very fully aware that there are going to be some challenges being in an all-white suburb.
I think what she is not prepared for is Rebecca Milan. Yeah, and Rebecca was one of these people who was really awakened by a George Floyd like event that happens three years before the book starts. She wanted to do all the right things getting the, you know, she saw on social media that she was supposed to raise better white children, right?
Like as a white mother of white children, she had a responsibility to make sure that she was raising anti racist children. And so she, she got those books and she watched the right videos with them and, and started the parent diversity committee at her school and made sure that Rolling Hills, Virginia had a sign up that said all are welcome here.
And yet she is confronted very early on the book by her daughter saying. But we don’t care about diversity and this is what one of the things children can teach us, which is that they see all around us. They see what we do. There’s what we say. There’s the books we put in front of them, which is important
Uh, the shows that we have them watch and then there is the way that we live our lives and she is very much. Called in, she probably called out by her daughters saying, but we don’t have diversity in our lives. How could you say diversity is important if we don’t live in a diverse community? And the only people of color we see are the ones who are in service positions around us.
And Rebecca has to reckon with that. And that’s very hard for her because it is not the life that she pictured for herself. She didn’t grow up in this kind of wealth. And when she finds out that D’Andrea Whitman. Is moving to town. Oh gosh, she excited because this is her chance to prove to herself and the committee and to her daughters that by golly, we like diversity.
So this is where these two meet. I mean, Rebecca is desperate to make friends with D’Andrea Whitman. She can’t wait to meet her and D’Andrea. Has a sense that maybe this white woman wants to be friends with her only because of this. Plenty of history to explain that that’s the case, that that’s a dynamic that’s out there.
And so why would she want to be friends with Rebecca? And that then these two are thrust together and there’s not much of a choice because their daughters become best friends on the first day of school. And the daughters talk about them, like what, what happens with them? What is their mom’s and their dad, but mostly their mom’s response to this friendship and all that.
Yeah. I mean, I, I think they do what, what children all do. Right. And I mean, we did not have this sort of experience with. Raising my daughter, right, the first few years of her life, you know, she went to a predominantly black parochial school, right? And, you know, oftentimes a lot of black parents make those choices to sort of instill what they, those fundamentals and that foundation, right, for their families.
And so it’s very interesting now, you know, I. Kind of even wove that into D’Andrea’s narrative. One of the reasons that she is just so heartbroken about this move to Rolling Hills is not only all these white folks and, you know, she’s leaving her friends behind, you know, she’s like, man, I thought my kid was going to be starting kindergarten at this all black school.
And now she has to go to this predominantly white Cool, right? No. And our daughter became older. We did have her attend independent schools, right? And so this was sort of this first, like, sort of school dynamic with, uh, interracial friendships, but she’s a musician. She plays the violin. A lot of sports activities are very much racialized.
Um, and that’s due to a number of different factors, right? So I think we’re all very familiar with what it looks like when our kids, right? Has a friend of another race and is unbothered by it all, right? I mean, a lot of the times it is parents. With our own preconceived notions and challenges and, you know, trauma that we have not fully addressed, right?
And our children sort of force us to sort of reconcile with some of these things. And so I think that’s what you see a lot with Nina’s character. She is as precocious and innocent as most five year olds are. And, you know, as far as she’s concerned, Isabella is her best friend. And what are the odds that we are going to Find ourselves wearing the same outfit on the first day of school.
We like the same things we do, you know, and that is what children sort of focus on, we are all of these other things. We’re just alike. You know, it’s almost like their skin color is like the last consideration. And it’s almost like, Oh, I didn’t even realize that. Yeah. Or it’s something that is like, Oh, that’s so cool.
You know, my friend, so and so, their uncle has that skin color. Right. And then they just like move on. Her parents, we see DeAndrea’s character having challenges. And one of the things that Catherine and I were very intentional about is not making the parents of these children. On one accord, because that’s usually not the case.
And so Deandre’s husband Malik grew up attending mixed race schools and boarding schools. Right. And so he has a very different perspective and understanding and almost even outlook on why this is great for Nina. You know, that’s sort of where we see Nina’s character sort of influence, not only just the story, but also her parents evolution as, as characters.
Mm hmm. Similar to, uh, D’Andrea with her daughter Nina in that we project some of our own, uh, past experiences, uh, onto our children that when Nina or when, um, Nina and Isabella, uh, become friends, Rebecca’s daughter, Isabella, really, it’s the beginning of an opportunity for Rebecca to atone for things that she feels bad about in her past, that she feels she messed up in her childhood, that she’s putting a lot on Isabella as well for that friendship, but she’s over the moon.
She can’t wait. To have D’Andrea bring Nina over for a sleepover. She won’t stop asking about it. She wants them to be great friends and then maybe the moms become friends and all that. And what I love about what we did with the dual narrative and these alternating perspectives is that we see inside the homes and the psyches of each of these women, what is going through their heads, which what seems simple is.
Our daughters want to have a sleepover and what that conjures up in us, our baggage and our emotions and the history of everything. And then structural racism is in it too. Like these girls want to have a sleepover and we put a lot, they literally just want to have fun. And we have already decided that this is going to change the way they see themselves, how they navigate the world.
Oh my God. When they’re 20, she’s going to remember. I think it’s one of the things that Kath and I have loved so much is. Hearing from readers and because oftentimes we’re just not aware or we’re in community with like minded people who are saying, I know, right? I remember my first sleepover, right? But it’s something about seeing the characters play out our own lived experiences.
And we’re like, Oh, I’m really doing the most here. I didn’t even realize I was, you know, doing the most. And so, um, we try to explore that not just through the seriousness of that, right? Because oftentimes there are some lived experiences that folks have had that have made them have very real So I don’t want to mitigate that at all, right.
But you know, we also want to approach it, you know, with a little levity and allowing these characters to sort of evolve. Because I think one of the questions that folks get so often, right, say for example, people see me and Catherine as friends and they’re like, like, there’s some secret, right? Like how are y’all, y’all are real friends, right?
And like, she’s. Like, how are y’all real friends? And so we want to show folks like what that looks like, right. In order to build Catherine as my friend, because we have a history of building this relationship and working at this relationship, and it’s not this base. It’s solely on the fact that she wants to have a black friend and I want to have a right white friend.
Right? Like this, like any other relationship is one that is built on trust and understanding and being able to have honest conversations with each other. Right? And so we want to show what that looks like with these two women and the understanding that there may be some bumps and here’s how you navigate it.
Right, Catherine? Did I? Okay. Bye. Bye. Bye. You know, I think you really touch on something really important that I don’t even talk about it or think about it myself that much, but we, we tend to kind of like make things so important around children and their behavior or their decision or what they said, or, you know, like, okay, so here’s an example.
I get these texts from my grandkids, they live in another state. Then this morning I get one. I know it’s the youngest because it’s all emojis. And they’re all very sad emojis today. And I’m like, what’s the matter? I, I mean, I, I didn’t know if I was talking to someone who could read or not, but then a little bit later I was looking.
Okay. So the grown up and looked at this and said. The first word is sex, and then there’s all these very, very sad emojis, and I could take that text, and I could read all kinds of things into it, and the honest truth is, she’s three, she doesn’t know that she spelled a word, she doesn’t know what that word means, and she was just stuck on those two buttons, right?
But I think that’s an example of how we can just read so much into something that is just happenstance, and make such a big deal about it. You know, I was marvel at how we want to see, I want to see, you know, seem very complex and nuanced to other people. I want them to give me grace and understand that I make mistakes and I’m not just one of my choices or one thing I’ve said.
And yet we don’t do that for other people. We want, we want to like immediately judge it and know that we understand what they’re trying to say and that we understand their intent behind it and everything yet that we. We have so many more layers ourselves.
And it is fun to unpeel those layers with your new friends or, you know, your friends that you work with and all of that and write books together. And all of that. I love, I just love observing your friendship and seeing it. And I love your work. I’m just wondering, is there any. Anything that you would say, I mean, the folks who are listening to this podcast, I assume our parents have very young children since it’s parenting in the first three years, um, or grandparenting them, what would you say about two parents of children, this age, based on your own work and also on your own parenting around, around this, I feel like I should just go really quickly because I can like, just barely remember when Nala under parents, just give yourselves.
Disgrace, right? Like parenting is such a beautiful, wonderful, miraculous journey, and you’re going to make mistakes, right? I think those first three years in particular, we put so much emphasis on doing everything right. And it’s literally impossible to do everything right. Of course, you should try your best, right?
But give yourselves grace when, when you make those little mistakes, right? And to your point, we do it in all these other different areas, right? But it’s for some reason, you know, when it comes to certain topics or certain issues. We expect that we’re just supposed to get it right the first time. And the other thing is, is that children are very resilient
Right. And the things that we remember our children literally will have no memory of. And I can say that with confidence. Because I’m a 20 year old. That has no memory of some of the things that I still feel guilty about, right? Like, she’s two years old and me giving in and letting her eat a popsicle for dinner because I just could not deal anymore, you know?
And I’m just like, she thinks it’s cool, you know? Like, you did that? That’s so cool, right? But anyway, just give yourself grace. Understand. The children are resilient, and this is such a beautiful part of your parenting journey, and just try and embrace it fully. Yeah, I love that because we do, there are certain things where we put more, we put more weight on, on it thinking we are going to ruin their lives, but it’s funny that you brought up and the, how the Text from your grandchild had sex in it because I sometimes think about that comparing conversations about race with kids and young kids to like the sex talk right the birds and the bees, and we oftentimes make these choices right which you know much better I just know from my own experience and like parenting books I’ve read.
That we overcorrect a little bit. So whatever it was that happened to us, we don’t want to be that kind of parent. So I remember when I started to ask my mom questions about where babies come from, the only thing she told me was she grabbed one of my baby dolls and just pointed between the legs. That was it.
Everything else I found out. From other places. And so, I wanted to make sure that this was a conversation that was normalized in our house. But then you find yourself, your child asks one question, and you want to just over explain. And we do that with race, too. Where when my kids start asking questions about race, I would then, I would answer the question, and then I would start to go into the analysis of the history of structural racism in the United States.
And of course, they’ve moved on to like, basically, oh, squirrel, you know? Yeah. So I learned from the advice around like, well, when kids start asking about how babies are made, answer the one question that they have asked and then keep it moving. And I realized that that can work with race as well. I don’t go into it because then it’s not developmentally appropriate to give them the entire history.
They’ve lost interest. We become a thing. And by the time they are able to understand these issues and go into the analysis a little bit more, they’re not going to want to ask you any questions because you have gone on and on. Yeah. That’s one thing. She’s just gonna take it over the edge. And you’re so right, Catherine.
I’m so glad that you said that because it really is age appropriate answers with the understanding that you are building upon knowledge over time, right? I always say that you’re building upon knowledge over time. You do not have to tell them everything right now. If they ask why Is her skin a different color?
Right? You can literally give an age appropriate answer. And it could be as simple as, you know, well, she, her skin is the same color as her parents skin. Just like your skin is the same color as my skin. Cause I’m your mommy. Right. And sometimes that’s enough. That’s really like, that’s all they needed in the moment.
Right? Like you do not need to chronicle the history of the transatlantic slave trade. And how we all, you know what I mean? Like, and that is our tendency to, as Catherine said, we have a tendency to over course correct or over inform. And I think it’s so important, Catherine, you’re so right. Age appropriate answers.
Answer the question that was asked of you and know that you will have other opportunities to build upon that knowledge over time. Right? Yeah, that’s a really great word. And, you know, I might just add that if you, if you give children more information than they are able to really understand and more than understand, but you might be building fears and in kids with too much information or So, Giving them a load to carry that is too heavy.
You know, you know, there’s a story. Um, I think it’s I’m not sure of the title, but a little girl asked her father a question about sex. He just, you know, kind of pauses and they’re getting on a train and he says, would you pick up the suitcase and bring it when you step up on the train? And she tried, but it was too heavy.
She said, you know, I can’t get it. I can’t pick it up. It’s too heavy. And he said, well, that’s how it is with information. You need to let me carry this for you. And when you’re. Strong enough to carry it. I will answer that question for you. But for now, we’re just going to let me hold it for you. And I think that, you know, could certainly apply in racial conversations, sexual conversations, all of those conversations.
Sure. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining me on this podcast. Where can people find your book? Wherever books are sold and it’s, let’s say the name and everything again. Yes. Rebecca, not Becky. You can find it forever. Books are sold. Audiobook, ebook, your library, you know, we hope that readers really enjoy this book.
It’s perfect for parents. Perfect book for parents to read, you know, just for their own sort of edification, but also with other parents to start to have some real conversations around the things that we’re all sort of, uh, grappling with. And then I think lastly, if you check out our website, um, our social media handles, which you can find just by our names, I am Christine Platt, I am Katherine Wiggins Kinney Green is our handles on IG and then our website.
I’m Christine Platt dot com and Catherine is Catherine Wiggington Green, right? Dot com? Yes. Okay. Just making sure. You can, uh, check out our websites and have an opportunity to see our book tour schedule in 2024. We will be back on the road and we would love to be in conversation with parents then. you know, to discuss the book and answer any other questions they might have.
That’s great. Well, I’ll put those links in the show notes, and I’m hoping that you might be coming my way. If you are, I will be there for sure. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks. Bye. Bye.