A flyer that was sent home with some Iowa school students caused quite a furor due to its “flashy headline.”
The handout referenced Drake University religion professor Jennifer Harvey’s upcoming discussion about racism. She’ll be speaking at West Des Moines’ Valley High School at the end of the month regarding her new book “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.”
According to Harvey, “the conundrums of raising healthy white children in our society today is [sic] tough,” and that “good dialogue about and understanding the impact of race on white children is lacking.”
It was the headline of the advertisement which provoked the criticism: “Raising Healthy White Kids: A Conversation for All of Us” (emphasis added).
— KCCI News (@KCCINews) January 11, 2018
“Healthy white kids, from what I understand that term to mean, by definition, healthy means anti-racist white kids,” Harvey told KCCI. But she did concede that she could understand how some would take the headline the wrong way.
“We have further to go in helping white children learn anti-racist skills, strategies and interventions,” Harvey said.
That is the part of the flyer she fears may have been missed.
“Important public discussion exists in regards to the impact of race and racism on children of color,” Harvey said, “but good dialogue about and understanding the impact of race on white children is lacking.”
West Des Moines Community School’s Community Education Department distributed the flyers through social media and in some schools.
Director Shahna Janssen said the negative feedback will help the Community Education Department moving forward.
“It has been helpful for us to hear what the concerns were, so we could kind of help clear up some confusion and modify our communication going forward about the event,” Janssen said.
The department has modified its communication by removing the questionable headline from the flyer.
Like many other proclaimed experts on race relations, Harvey said the turmoil over the handout “is an example of a larger discussion that needs to take place.”
In a March 2017 New York Times op-ed, Harvey claimed that parents who teach their kids that all people are “the same underneath [the] skin” are utilizing “ineffective” strategies for combating racism. She also said “it’s hard to admit our white predecessors [like George Washington] did bad things” because “it makes [white people] feel bad.”
According to her Drake faculty profile page, Harvey’s courses “focus on encounters of religion and ethics with race, gender, activism, politics, spirituality, justice, and any other aspect of social life in which religiosity decides to ‘show up.'” The professor’s recent publications include “work on contemporary reparations movements in Protestant traditions, queer articulations of Christian traditions, and Native-Colonial dialogues on issues of environmental justice.”