Many parents are struggling with speaking to their children about race relations. Granted, it is a sensitive subject, but most parents are just leaving that discussion on the table, or even worse, hoping and praying that schools will take up the slack and create a syllabus to be reviewed during school hours. As a mother of 2 school-age, brown children, I have no qualms saying that this is partially a personal request. With the recent indictment decision in reference to the Mike Brown shooting, it’s time for parents to vow to take action, whether they have little brown children or not. We have the responsibility to raise children who will make our world better, and who will be able to speak intelligently about race relations. It may be difficult, but it’s necessary. Here are some ways to teach your child to be an advocate for change.
See The Colors
One of the most dangerous parenting mistakes today is the “we don’t see color in our household” movement. Stop it. Stop it right now. Teaching your kids about race is not the same as teaching them to be a racist. By telling your children not to see color is confusing and frustrating for their growing brain. They can’t help that they see color when they meet new friends. That’s the way our mind works. It’s also just fine that when they tell you about their new friend James, they insist on telling you that he’s black. Seeing the colors of their friends will ensure that they will understand why that friend will be discriminated against in the future. It will also ensure that they’ll have no problems standing up for anyone that is discriminated against because of their ethnicity. By telling them “there is no color,” they won’t be able to recognize injustice. They’ll see their friends as victims of racism first-hand. but won’t understand why. Thus, their brain won’t instinctively project said friends. Think of it this way: would you rather them associate a race and color with someone they love now, or after that person is the victim of a senseless crime and THEN you have to explain why?
Stop Creating Dumb Children
Children are geniuses. Yes, every single one. Do you know why? If they don’t know or understand an answer, situation, or anything new they learn, they have the immediate instinct to ask questions until they get it. They will ask for hours at a time, if need be. They are always on a mission to understand. As parents, we dumb down our kids by dismissing their questions with trivial answers, or just saying “that’s just the way it is.” We’re so engrossed in The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, and whatever new book we’re dying to finish that we turn our kids into dummies in the process. Talk about race. Let your kids ask questions. Genuinely answer those questions, even if your answer is “I actually don’t know that one, but let’s research it together.” By the way, this should be an ongoing conversation, not just something that you talk about during Black History Month.
Get Past Your Selfishness
As stated above, sometimes we let our own desires keep us from teaching our children about important issues. As adults, we’re also very good at letting it seem like we don’t do certain things for the sake of our children. Some excuses I’ve seen in the past 24 hours are “my kid has anxiety, so I’m not sure I can teach them to be an advocate right now,” “my child is just so young, so I may have to wait a few years,” and “there are no resources for me to follow, so I don’t want to mess up my child’s view of race relations by teaching the wrong thing.” Get over yourself. This is not about you, it’s about the next generation. Their anxiety, and your lack of confidence may make teaching advocacy a bit harder, but it’s no excuse not to do the work. Also, it’s OK to admit that this may trigger some issues in yourself, and that might be why you are hesitant when it comes to talking about race in your home. Get help for yourself, but don’t let it delay these talks with your children. The sooner we introduce the idea of injustice to our children’s minds, the sooner they will be the change in the world.
While these aren’t all of the ways you can teach your child to be an advocate for change, they should be a good start. If you’d like more ideas and resources to help you with these conversations, and encourage your children to be amazing citizens of the world, check out the hashtags #FergusonSyllabus on twitter. Many teachers have been posting great advice and tangible resources since the murder of Mike Brown in August.
Please feel free to comment below with any other tips you may have, or anything you may want to add to the discussion, but note that blatantly ignorant comments will be deleted. Thank you.