ST. LOUIS – Jenna Voss is a mother of three, a university professor, and is a member of We Stories, a group helping families in the area learn how to have conversations about race.
We Stories was created by two moms after the Michael Brown killing. They were unsure as white people how to talk about his death and the issues surrounding it with their families.
Voss, who also joined after Brown’s death, says hundreds of St. Louis families have turned to We Stories for help over the last 5 plus years.
“For the families that say I have to do something and I don’t know what to do, We Stories community is a starting place,” explained Voss.
The organization is made up of predominately white parents and uses diverse children’s books as part of its curriculum. The participants also create a support system for those looking to start and strengthen their conversations about race and racism.
“Race has real implications and if we deny that it does, we are really missing an important part of the conversation,” explains Voss.
The organization offers a family learning program. Voss says some families just go through that program. There is also an advocacy building program for those participants that want to bring the conversation into their schools, places of faith, and local governments.
She also says teaching your children to be color blind may do more harm than good.
“When we don’t see someone’s racial identity, we are denying an aspect of their identity,” says Voss.
Voss explains if you don’t talk about race with your children they learn it’s a taboo topic.
She also says the topic of “white privilege” is discussed. She explained part of understanding the term is understanding unearned privileges.
Some of those include not getting a Band-Aid that matches the color of your skin or products in hotels that are not formulated for a person of color.
“These are little things that everyone should have access to, but because we have operated with people who are white in positions of power, making these decisions for so long, the default has been to serve white people. So these are tiny little ways that we white people need to start noticing how they’ve been afforded privileges if they’ve wanted them or not,” explains Voss.
Voss says there has been more interest in the group after the killing of George Floyd. She acknowledges the group does see an uptick in interest after something awful happens to a black life in the world and that doesn’t feel good. However, she says it reinforces the need for a space like We Stories.
“So whatever wakes people up, it is time then to come into the work, we want to have a space where they can get started and activated,” said Voss.