It’s hard to know if the world has become an even tougher place to grow up in or if it’s the result of social media, which makes it seem like everything has become even more dramatic than it really is. Everyone and their pet chinchilla have an opinion and many more aren’t as shy about voicing them. It also may feel like in the last 4 years, with the increase in far left, right and all in between organizations in many major cities/countries, there have been many more situations where people are proud and overt to not only express but usually verbally attack people of a visible minority or people with whom they feel superior towards. So with all this brewing, how do we broach this sensitive subject with our own children, even if this isn’t their current reality? What age is too young to teach them about social injustices? Explore with us!
I will fully admit that this subject matter came about, due to a conversation I had after showing a collection of “socially conscious” books I had bought for my daughter. It was suggested that the topics were too “serious” for a (then) 4-year-old and that maybe topics like this shouldn’t be discussed as it might then make kids develop a fear or prejudice towards other races. I will be honest, this sparked a negative reaction in me; my daughter is mixed raced, I have blogged about the irks from comments I have experienced in regards to this, What The Race?– so, in order for this point to be accurate, it would suggest that they would be classifying my daughter as Black.
I accept that the information you should choose to discuss with your children should be both age and sensitivity appropriate. I’m not suggesting you pull up some of the most violent and hard-hitting films to expose them to. But I also believe, the very reason she (specifically in this case) should be aware of the social injustices is BECAUSE she is mixed raced- it is equally part of her history/existence.
The belief that unless you are of a visible minority, there is no need for you to learn about the plight of said minorities because it isn’t your reality is naive and probably why we still have the issue to this day. When you’re living a life of privilege you aren’t concerned about the plight of the people who are living without. This idea that it’s up to minorities to fight inequalities, is severely ignorant. It shouldn’t just be my job to fight racism or prejudice, for far too long it has meant far more to visible minorities, because let’s face it we have more skin in the game (pun intended). If we are all treated equally, we all win. What was also evident was the fact that they suggested talking about racism will lead to creating more racism, if I’m honest- this is usually the view from a person who is uncomfortable with facing the atrocities inflicted by their race. How can we learn from anything if we’re shamed from talking about it? We do not use the same logic when it comes to the World Wars or The Holocaust, but racism should be silenced? That’s messed up. #sorrynotsorry.
Part of the reason racists seem to be growing like weeds recently is that we seem to enjoy shaming and attacking rather than educating them. This doesn’t actually get rid of racism, it just drives it underground.
How can we raise well-rounded, compassionate children if we don’t let them know just how fortunate they are? That things weren’t always this way? But all the while showing them that dialogue and discourse is a way to solve problems and come to a mutual understanding. It’s not about attacking and labelling someone, then shutting down. Teaching children about racism and showing them that we are all the same, but at one point it wasn’t a level playing field for everyone, and well let’s face it- it’s still not sorted. At the end of the day, education allows discussion, dialogue, other viewpoints and ultimately it allows for growth. Children are young and open enough to not be racist; if they hold any fears or negativities towards another race, this usually stems from their environment or something they have seen or heard. I think, like everything else, it’s our job to ensure that we expose our children to different things and some of them won’t be all roses and butterflies.
At the end of the day, you can live in a bubble and raise your children the same way, but odds are you’re not raising mixed cultured or children who are visible minorities, so you feel it isn’t important to you and your life/family. That’s exactly what privilege is and exactly why it’s important to understand it and to be sensitive to the fact that it’s not a level playing field. We are teaching children about the world wars, have them read Anne Frank’s book in school, discuss the atrocities of the Nazi regime and yet talking about racism which 1- occurred at the same time historically and 2- is still prominent in 2019, is frowned upon.
From my perspective, I will always look at it from an educational point of view and I believe it is the key; the more we can learn and open our eyes to other cultures, thoughts, and imagery, we will only be helping to expand our children’s lives and minds. How can we expect to learn from something we ignore? We raise awareness on cancer, mental health, bullying, the list goes on, yet mention racism and it all goes quiet. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t only be up to minorities to fight and stamp out racism, we have to hold each other accountable, just like we need cis/heterosexual voices to support LGBTQ rights, it also takes the support and acknowledgement of the White population to fight racism.