On Race, Rights & Raising a Black Son~An Interview with Rachel Yantis

On Race, Rights & Raising a Black Son~ An Interview with Rachel Yantis

Today I want to introduce you to a friend of mine from Chicago, Rachel Yantis.  Rachel launched the business Like Me Like You Kids in 2015 with a vision to curate beautiful products that allow children of color to see themselves in the art, books and toys they interact with daily. She also hopes that children of all shades would grow up appreciating the gift of diversity. Rachel is married to her college sweetheart, Mike, and they are enjoying being parents after more than twenty years together!

I recently interviewed her and thought you would benefit from hearing her views on race, rights and raising a black son.


 1.  Why did you begin Like Me Like You Kids?

In September 2012, our lives were changed by the arrival of a darling baby boy into our home. Of course any parent will attest to the entirely new outlook one has after a child is added to one’s family.

Our outlook has changed for multiple reasons: a) the way in which he entered our family — through foster care; b) the fact we are different races (he’s African-American and we are Caucasian); and c) the life-altering reality of being responsible for another human.

I have always been sensitive to issues of justice and fairness. But, I now have what I call a second lens on the world. The thoughts I have about society and the fears I have for him are different and sometimes difficult.

Reflecting on my own ignorance is challenging. I know things will only become more complex as he grows older, but in his baby and toddler years, our main focus is on him forming a positive identity as an African-American boy.

The difficulty in finding books, toys and art that truly reflects him is what has inspired me to do something to help shine a light on great books and products that exist and help develop new products in the future. And, this isn’t just for our own family.

The reality is that by 2019, children of color will outnumber white children in the United States. So, my real hope is that every family will be thoughtful about having books and toys that reflect the children in their own home but also the children they will encounter out in the world. This inspired the start of Like Me Like You Kids.

2. How has your thinking about race issues changed through having a black son?  

Mainly, it is personal. And, it shouldn’t have to be personal to matter, but seeing the world through the eyes of someone you love is a powerful teaching tool. As I mentioned earlier, I have been finely attuned to issues of injustice ever since I was a kid, and this certainly included people being racially discriminated against.

But, I think it has been through friendships with people of color, seeing the truly different way they encounter the world (and the world encounters them), that has changed my perspective.
It haunts me.
Why should I be given the benefit of the doubt in almost every situation because I am white and middle class? It’s hard to think about and I think most of us don’t want to.
The problem is that awareness of it requires change. It requires education. It requires advocacy. It requires courage.  Like any parent, I would do anything for my son so when there is even a hint of someone giving him a narrower glance because of race it sends me into a rage.
This happened recently on a trip and while somewhat prepared for it intellectually -  emotionally, I wasn’t. He is THREE years old. What could he possibly have done to inflict fear in a grown (white) adult?
Experiences like that prove that racism is real. And, it is terrifying. I should add that he has older siblings who do not live with us, so I actually have the opportunity almost weekly to be with him and his eighteen year old brother.
There’s no doubt that the world reacts differently to them and frankly, the processing of that is almost too painful to dive deep on.

3. What are some of your fears for your son's future?
I suppose at a base level, many fears are the same as they would be if my son were white. I want him to be a godly man filled with character and living out the gifts God has given him - whatever those end up to be.
But, I think about safety. I think about mistaken identity. I think about stop-and-frisk. I think about the white umbrella and wonder how long he will be underneath it with us.
He is very emotionally intelligent so even beyond physical safety, I worry about his sweet spirit being injured in some way because of an encounter over race. I believe we are in a bit of a honeymoon phase right now. He is young, adorable, personable and has great hair (!!) - people want to be around him. But, he’s close to the age where he is going to (with my teaching and encouragement) tell people to stop petting his afro.
He will attend school and depending on where that is, we could begin to see the realities of educational inequities. I wonder if things will be blamed on being black rather than just regular ol’ bad decisions or lapses of judgment that all kids have.
I wonder when white women will begin to clutch their purses when he walks by. Will anyone ever cross the street to avoid walking by him? It is almost too much to bear.
I think beyond that and the obvious “driving while black” concerns, I wonder if our family will find the right community of support as a transracial family.
We really need the support of people who are able to see the complexity of us and who won’t wish away the racism that exists and that reality for our son as he navigates the world.

4. What resources have helped you as you parent a son who is a different race from you?

-Personal conversations are invaluable, of course. My friend, Leila, is also fantastic at forwarding me resources.
-I am reading books like: Between the World and Me, Honky, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption, The Great Migration
-I follow blogs like: Rage Against the Minivan, Flower Patch Farmgirl, White Sugar Brown Sugar, A Musing Maralee, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Black Girl in Maine, Austin Channing
-I follow the news for stories about race and get notifications from The New York Times on race-related stories.  
On Race, Rights & Raising a Black Son~ An Interview with Rachel Yantis
You can find Rachel at www.likemelikeyoukids.com and on Instagram as likemelikeyoukids.  Visit here to shop for great gifts that reflect diversity and here to visit the Like Me Like You Kids blog for more thoughts on race and diversity.

We'd love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences in the comments.  Rachel will be available to respond!  


Related: The Ugly Truth about Diversity

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"In September 2012, our lives were changed by the arrival of a darling baby boy into our home."

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