Racism is very real. It always has been even though many of us (including myself) may have never directly or knowingly dealt with the effects of this. I phrase it this way for the simple fact that I do not know how many times my resume may have been put to the side because of my VERY black/African American name or how many of my current or past coworkers didn’t like because of the color of my skin. I grew up in Feltonville which is a very multicultural neighborhood in Philadelphia. I literally had Caucasians living on one side of my row home, a Middle Eastern family on the other side, and Hispanics across the street. My parents never talked to me about racism. My dad was all about Nigerian pride and my mom who is a mixture of African American mixed with other races going back generations never felt the need to have this conversation with me or my siblings.
In light of the horrible demonstration of racism in Charlottesville that claimed the life a one and injured 19, I have come to realize that this may be a conversation that this generation should have with their children as well as the current discussions of race and discrimination in the United States, the question is how? How do you talk about racism, discrimination, and hate to the little people that we want nothing more to protect from all the evil in the world? Though the conversation may be hard and very delicate one it is something that is needed to make sure that our children are very aware of all the United States of America and the world has to offer.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it
Talking about racism can be scary but contrary to popular belief children are very aware and extremely smart. If your child brings up something that they overheard … or uses a word that they heard such as a racial slur it is important to talk to them about the meaning of what they are saying or give an explanation of what they may have overheard or don’t understand. Children usually are completely happy with an explanation that makes sense. If they ask about someone of a different race such as “why is Scott’s skin white?” or “why do I have brown skin” explain to them exactly what the difference in skin color is. Even discussing Black Lives Matter and what they represent should be talked about. Explain why they are marching and how they feel. The Ku Klux Klan could also be discussed in the same context by stating that they do not like people that are different than them and believe that “White” people are better/greater than any other race of people.
Be a role model
When you have children it is more important to lead by example. I could never be the type of parent that tells my children to “do as I say and not as I do”. I have friends from different races and I show them all respect. I have had my Hispanic friends teach my children a few words in their native language and I have had my Caucasian friends explain why their skin is so much lighter. I make sure to not engage in stereotypical conversations in front of my children because they are ALWAYS listening and if I do by mistake (which I have) I make sure to apologize and correct myself in front of my children letting them know that we all may make the mistake of saying mean and discriminatory things but it is important to correct yourself. Biases are something that we all have be it about a race, religion or even a political party. The best way to be a great parent and role model is to make sure you are being great yourself in both words and actions.
Embrace teachable moments
Teachable moments in regards to race is one thing that I have seen come up more often whether it is trying to find a doll for my daughter that looks like her to trying to make my son understand that his beautiful head of curls cannot grow straight into a bowl cut like his Chinese classmate. Even something as simple as showing that white eggs and brown eggs are the same inside could make the world of difference. Holidays (such as Thanksgiving, MLK Day, and Chinese New Year), months that celebrates certain things like black history and awareness weeks all are great conversation starters as well. Teachable moments can also consist of allowing and promoting your child/children to be proud of their heritage, but at the same time reminding them that being proud of your background does not mean that another’s race or heritage makes them less than. I am very pro-black, pro-African, pro-thick curly natural hair for the simple fact that society is not but at the same time I do not teach my little people that they are BETTER than others simply because of these traits.
This is definitely a conversation that we should be having with our children simply because we are currently raising Generation X. There are going up in an age where they can gain access to any information simply by “talking” to Google or Siri in their electronic devices. I’d rather they get their first tidbits of information from the people who love them and want them to grow into great human beings than the trolls they may come across on social media.
Do you talk to your children about racism and discrimination? If you do, how do you go about it? If you don’t, why don’t you? Let’s keep this conversation going.