The events of the last couple of weeks, the violent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (and so many before them) as well as the racist acts of Amy Cooper against Christian Cooper, have led many parents to ask themselves, “What can I do?”, “When and how do I talk with my children about race and racism?", or "Where do I start?". All great questions and fortunately we are living in a time where there is an abundance of resources just waiting for an abundance of action on all our parts.
I am the Mexican-American mother of a 9-year-old boy who is of mixed Mexican and White heritage. He presents as white and as such we have raised him to understand the responsibility and privilege that comes with that identity. My own Mexican heritage and my experiences in the community have led me on a path of working for racial equity and empowering voices that are often silenced and ignored. I have had the wonderful privilege of sharing in community with racial equity advocates from all across the country that have guided me in my own journey of growth as a woman of color, but also as the parent of a white child whom I am investing my love and energy in so that he continues to grow into an anti-racist.
Rectifying the wrongs in our country’s racist patterns and actions depend not only on us as adults, but this effort will require youth voice and leadership and we as parents can have a strong impact on the future actions of the next generation. So, what can you do? Here are 3 steps for you to consider:
Yup. First, do nothing. Listen to black voices and stories (and those of other communities of color) on social media, in movies, on podcasts, in your own social circles. Soak it in. Don’t listen to respond, just listen. Are there any words or phrases that cause you to bristle a little? That made you feel just a slight bit defensive? Do you have questions about anything you heard? Write these reflections down.
2. Self-Work and Action.
In order to raise anti-racist children we as parents need to do the work of being anti-racist first. Remember that reflection work from step 1? Do some research based on those notes, find the appropriate resources for your growth plan and learning style, and act based upon suggestions for action that you are learning about. Maybe you want to understand what white privilege really means, there are excellent books on this topic (see list of resources below). Or you might want to better understand the history of police brutality on black Americans in this country. There are great movies and documentaries on this topic as well. Define your growth plan, access the resources, do the work. Your children are watching. They will ask you “What are you reading/watching/listening to?” Use the moment to have candid explicit conversations with your children on what you are learning. Be honest with your children in saying, “I am learning this”, or “I am doing this because…”. Share with them how you will use what you are learning, children are the best at holding us accountable!
3. Start or Grow an Anti-Racist Library.
When can you start talking about racism with your children? NOW. Of course, we do this from a place of age-appropriate discussion but the earlier we start the better. I love books as a jumping-off point for conversations on race, diversity, racism, adversity, and as a way to highlight amazing people of color in our history and in the present. Go stand in front of your child’s library, sort through every book and take note of how many books you have that are written by authors of color and/or that feature diverse characters and voices in those books. I have included a link to a great list of children’s books below if, in fact, you do see your child’s library can use more diverse voices and stories. Do this for your own adult library at home.
I wish I could say these are 3 easy steps, but the reality is that to create lasting change we need to do the work as parents and it will be uncomfortable and hard work at times. This is the investment we make as parents for a brighter and equitable future for all children. This is also by no means a comprehensive list of the actions we can take as parents to be anti-racist and to raise our children to stand up for equity, but if you start with the resources listed below I do believe you will go further down the rabbit hole of action as I have done as well.
Below are some of my favorite resources and websites to help you start your own anti-racism journey as a parent:
31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism, and resistance by Embrace Race (look for their parent webinars on these topics also)
11 Essential Films on Anti-Racism by Love Magazine
Glossary of Racial Equity Language by Racial Equity Tools