How and Why I talk to my kid about race

How and Why I Talk to My Kid About Race

My heart is breaking. I’m at a loss. I don’t want to believe the world we live in is so sick. I want to hide behind my easy life and put the blinders on. When I originally heard that George Floyd had been murdered by a police officer, I couldn’t watch the video. I didn’t want to even read the whole article. I simply swiped the app away and went on with my day. I do this often, with most news. I can only handle so much. Empathy is my superpower and I can get very caught up. So, for my mental health, I close the tab. I might say a prayer, and then I move on with my day. 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not going to cut it anymore. Our country has a deep dark mass throbbing in our gut. Each of us carries it. Most probably pretend it isn’t there, I know I did. We pretend that we don’t even notice the color of people’s skin, their gender identity, or their accent, or whatever. We put on the facade that everyone is just the same, and we all have equal opportunities, parallel hardships, and everything is beautiful. But that’s not true! We are all amazingly uniquely beautiful. We have different histories, stories, talents, opportunities, and struggles. 

I read a heartfelt post of a friend, concerning the recent protests. She was pleading that we need to stay present with the fact that human lives are being taken, people in authority are not held accountable, and the protestors are merely destroying property. This resonated with me. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “a riot is the language of the unheard”. I completely agree. I want to be involved, yet I don’t want to put my family at risk by attending a protest that might get a little rowdy. She sent me this list of “75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice”. Below, I begin to explore just ONE of those ideas. 

Start with our kids

I have NOT ONCE talked about race with my daughter. She’s 2.5. Today, I ordered her three new books featuring main characters of a different race in a positive light. According to a survey done by Sesame Workshop and NORC at the University of Chicago, 61% of black parents reported talking to their children about race often, while only 25% of white parents talk about it with any kind of frequency. We, as parents and/or educators, need to be proactive in explaining these differences to our kids. Without intervention, racial identity is generally only brought up when a child is negatively affected. 

As mentioned in the article, if a three-year-old is asked “is your skin brown from all the chocolate milk you drink?”, he goes home and asks his mom, and she can explain. However, the child who originally asked the question, never brings it up to his parents, and therefore, does not receive a proper answer. If kids are left to fend for themselves when trying to understand the differences among us, who knows what they will decide upon. What this study is arguing is that, if we can instead initiate conversations with ALL children, we can begin to raise our own child’s sense of self and identity and help them develop a healthy respect for everyone else’s.

Furthermore, we need to ensure our schools have books that feature people of color as main characters in positive ways. If you can, purchase a few books for your child’s classroom or for your friends who are teachers. We can no longer sit back, swipe away, and ignore what is happening.

We need to start educating ourselves, speaking up, and taking a stand. We need to get uncomfortable, feed the fire, build the heat that will help digest generations of this shit so it can become the dark rich fertilizer that will help us grow our future.

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