Life & Death: Talking About Race With Your Children

On the back of floods and floods of people on social media posting about racism, Black Lives Matter and their own personal experiences; some genuine and some disingenuous, some spreading joy and others simply fanning the flames of hate. Some having epiphanies and others just plain ole tired of experiencing it at all. We wanted to wait for the dust to settle (because we were cynical and believed that it would), in order to make sure we did our part and ensure we kept the conversation going. Mostly, because well…we are Black EVER DAY, not just the days when hoards of White people have just woken up to the disparity and especially not when it’s trending. So in this week’s post, we wanted to talk about when broaching the conversation with your children about race and opening their eyes up to the imbalances of the world and also providing helpful tools we came across which could help with said discourse. Read along with us.

Love is not a colour. character is not a shade of skin.

We wanted to note that for any family to have the luxury and the operative, word privilege to be able to wait a few/many years before they broach the subject of race and racism with their children is in and of itself a major privilege. Let that sink in for a bit or maybe read it again. For Black families this is a constant topic of conversation, be it a mother giving her Black son tips on how to stay safe, or ensuing her daughter is well-dressed and then some for that interview or job posting. But also mostly because people find ways to remind you of your Blackness pretty much on a daily. For families to feel comfortable and settled enough to discuss and celebrate wars, bullying, same-sex marriages and other pivotal topics BEFORE they feel it necessary to bring up race is baseline offensive to me, but I digress. I have had this very conversation with someone about how you shouldn’t be hiding or shying away from this topic, because for some- this is literally a matter of life and death. The luxury to “choose” if you have that conversation at all is a very, very eye opening thing. I can almost guarantee you, that for the average Black family, race is something openly discussed from a very young age. Whether it’s from seeking out books, toys, foods which reflect us, things which promote(s) our diversity so that our children can literally see themselves reflected on its pages or screens; that same urge isn’t there for the average White family because they constantly see themselves reflected in all facets of life and they don’t necessarily seek out this “diversity”. This can also be seen when discussing women’s rights, how many books on female empowerment would the typical “boy home” contain? Yet mothers of girls will actively seek out uplifting, self-embracing, empowering books for their daughters.

Do we notice which group goes on 20-30 years later to live their privileged bubble lives…? It literally started from the home. We do our kids a disservice by not expanding their minds, vocabulary, critical thinking and flexing their compassion muscle. Kids are already extremely open, it is us who add our implicit biases on them.

Raising a bi-racial child is an interesting balancing act when discussing racism, I in no way want her to believe or feel that White people are the enemy- that would essentially be telling her that 50% of her heritage is sketchy. She has always identified herself as being mixed, don’t call her Black and don’t call her White, she will come for you- she is mixed. What I have always reinforced to her is that like we are asking White people to not make assumptions about us based on our skin colour, she also shouldn’t make assumptions the other way as well. But don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that on one side of her family, even after being in a 13 year relationship with her father, there were members of the in-law group I have never meet because they merely dislike my complexion. They literally did not know I exist. Swallow that. Your conversation like most things, needs to be open, non-judgemental and most importantly, be honest, if you don’t know- say that. I often tell my daughter when I’m not sure, we look it up together. Life is a juggling act of constant learning. I also ensure to find and point out bi-racial people like her, so she can see herself represented and I know very well that this has had a positive impact on her. This is why I keep pushing the idea of how important representation is.

The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.


BOOKS TO START THE CONVERSATION:

  • I Am Every Good Thing by: Derrick Barnes & Gordon C, James
  • Sulwe by: Lupita Nyongo
  • M Is For Melanin by: Tiffany Rose
  • Hair Love by: Matthew A. Cherry
  • We Are The Change
  • You Matter by: Christian Robinson
  • We Are All Welcome by: Alexandra Penfold
  • I Am Human by: Susan Verde
  • Rebel Girls 1 & 2 by: Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
  • One Love by: Cedella Marley
  • Happy In Our Skin by: Fran Manushkin
  • A Bad Case of Stripes by: David Shannon
  • I Am Truly by: Kelly Greenawalt
  • My Two Grannies by: Floella Benjamin
  • Little People, Big Dreams: Ella Fitzgerald, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou by: Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Accounts/pages to follow:

It might be messy, it. might be uncomfortable, but it’s also necessary, you wouldn’t skip out on the puberty conversation, so don’t skip out on the racism one either- it’s just lazy parenting if you ask me. Also, do the research, find interesting and creative ways to open up the conversation to children. Trust me when I say, they are far more resilient and aware than we give them credit for.

References:

How to talk to kids about racism: An age-by-age guide– Today’s Parents
All White People Racist. Yes. All– Medium

No reader is too young to start’: anti-racist books for all children and teens– The Guardian

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