Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parent Upset That Son’s School Dwells on Racism

DEAR HARRIETTE: Seemingly out of the blue, they are reading lots of books about race at my son’s school. Seriously, they have read three books back-to-back about racial injustice. While I think it is important for the kids to learn about these topics, it is making us uncomfortable. Not everything is about race, but you would never know from this class. I don’t have the knowledge or time to debate these issues with my son every day.

I’m not trying to be rude or insensitive. My husband and I work hard to make sure that our son is thoughtful and not racist, but we also don’t want him to feel super self-conscious about being white. He shouldn’t have to apologize for being himself. I don’t know how to support him as times change. I do teach him to treat everyone with respect, but does that mean I have to allow him to be exposed to so much conversation about the atrocities of racism? -- Too Much Race Talk

DEAR TOO MUCH RACE TALK: I need to respectfully disagree with you on this. Hopefully your son is in the perfect place to engage in a conversation that is necessary for healing in our country. The good news, in my book, is that schools are walking toward the challenge rather than avoiding it. Perhaps our youth will be able to wrestle issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in respectful, creative ways. Consider that this is the way you can think about the curriculum he is engaging, rather than as a burden.

I think you should read the books, too, so that you can have informed conversations with him about what he is learning. Your job as a parent is to guide your child and to help him process whatever information comes before him. The more you equip yourself with the conversations of the day coupled with your own experience, the better you will be able to help him navigate this extremely challenging reality -- that racial injustice is still staring us in the face, and we have to do something about it.

For support, visit courageousconversation.com. This organization is devoted to helping educational institutions -- from administrators to students to parents -- learn how to talk respectfully and honestly about the realities of race, equity, inclusion and diversity in meaningful ways.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I hired a young woman to work with me this year fresh out of college. She is smart and personable. She knows how to do the job for the most part, but she has terrible basic manners. I am shocked that she doesn’t know how to eat using basic utensils. She doesn’t have an understanding of professional dress and what’s appropriate to wear to a business meeting or a special event after work. These may seem like small things, but they can make or break a person in their career. She is sensitive, and I’m not sure how to broach the subject. I want her to succeed, so I think she needs some guidance. What do you recommend? -- In Need of Etiquette Classes

DEAR IN NEED OF ETIQUETTE CLASSES: Invest in this young woman. If your HR department does not teach the basics of etiquette, send her to a class that will give her tips on how to present herself in a professional setting.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)