How to raise anti-racist kids

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Teach them boundaries - I think that one of the best ways of teaching anti-racism to children is to begin teaching them early that the entire world isn't theirs. Have you ever been at a playgroup and watched in awe as another mom just allowed her toddler to knock down everyone else's carefully structured blocks without saying anything? This happened to my toddler a few times. According to my culture this behavior would've been addressed immediately by the parent; however, when I noticed that courtesy isn't widespread here I had to step in and correct the behavior myself. Trust me. It usually took me gently setting a boundary one time before the mom quickly got it! Instructing our children to respect the person and property of others regardless of race at an early age is vital and a great place to start!

Go out of your way to find diversity - When we first moved into our neighborhood I didn't care that it was all white. We were on a quest to find a home closer to the country. Our neighbors had horses and that was all I needed! Of course I woke up a little when one neighbor, upon meeting me at the mailbox, said, "we're all happy that at least the house isn't vacant anymore". Micro-aggressive much! But I digress! I intended on sending my children to the public school but was met with a rude awakening. The student body wasn't diverse and there was no minority staff. My friend Megan of @toocoolformiddleschool informed me that after desegregation in schools 62 years ago most black teachers were fired as white parents did not want black teachers teaching their kids. You can see our conversation here. I couldn't bring myself to leaving my precious firstborn in a homogeneous atmosphere for 8 hours of the day. Especially after the warm welcome from our new neighbor. It was not how I desired for him to see the world. 

So I prayed and visited a private school 30 mins away. Upon orientation I met a Spanish speaking mom, a little Russian girl that couldn't stop following my son and a new family from Egypt along with white and black American families and others from Asia, Central, South America and the Caribbean. I thought to myself -- I could pay for this! It's hard to hate your friend that you grew up with from kindergarten! Today one of my sons have diverse best friends! In addition, we take our kids to a church outside of our community that's more diverse as well as a library and parks in more diverse towns. Exposure is important! Go the extra mile. If this isn't feasible for you because you live in Boise, Idaho or Lincoln, Nebraska then keep reading -- I have a tip for you at the end. 

Acknowledge the presence of black and brown people - One thing that is a custom in the black culture is to greet people you see and to acknowledge their presence. As a black person if you walk into a room you say hello to everyone. This is cultural as we brought it with us from Africa. My Ethiopian friends kiss each other on the cheek three times and my Nigerian sister-in-love bows and greets every elder in the home that she visits.  Practice saying hello when you go to a grocery store or park and see people that don't look like you. Let's bring back "good morning" and "good evening". Give black people a smile or eye contact and a nod to say "I see you". This practice will allow your children to not look past black and brown people. It is important for your kids to see you greeting a variety of persons.

Purchase diverse toys and book - Historically all cartoons, books and toys had white faces. Even bandages were meant to suit white skin...but I'm not going to open that can of worms. PBS kids is doing a good job at diversifying their imagery! We love Hero Elementary and Sid the Science Kid! Here are some pages on Instagram that have great diversity in toys and books; @wildflowerlibertyleague @diversebooks

Admit your own prejudice to them- I recently read the caption of a white mom who adopted a black child. She acknowledged that even with her black child buckled in his car-seat she locked her car door when she saw a black man walk by. This admission spoke volumes to me. I totally appreciated her ability to speak her truth! I think that one thing that our children need is for us to be honest. If you spoke out of prejudice, grabbed your purse when a black man walked by or passive aggressively did not invite your child's black friend to their birthday party admit to them that that action was wrong. You don't want to cry or burden them with your guilt. Just admit it, point it out and let them know that it's a process.

Gather with black people - We attend a predominantly black church and one of my best friends consistently came with her white family before relocating. Her words were "all the other churches are too boring, I love the lively singing here!" Because black people know what exclusion feels like we are very inclusive. Attend a church with a minority pastor, invite a black family over for a barbecue, or attend a ballgame of your child's friend of another ethnicity. Just gather.

Talk to them about racism - Just start yelling at the TV when news about injustice comes on! Say "that's racist!" Be straight forward! Black people have been yelling at the TV for a long time! They will remember your voice and even if racism doesn't end in your lifetime they'll remember and carry the torch to fix the issue that so greatly plagued their parents. Ignoring it will perpetuate the lie that it doesn't still exist. Covert, overt, systematic racism and implicit bias are still alive and well! 

Speak up to racist family members - We all have to correct family members about something. Whether it's feeding your kids something you've decided against, conflict in your approach to discipline or just plain shady behavior! Let them know that in the presence of your child they are never to make racist or derogatory remarks. In my culture in the Caribbean their is strong color-ism due to remnants of colonialism. I've had to look family members in their eyes and sternly say that that era is over! You will not speak on the color of my children's skin! Make up in your mind that racism is over and be brave enough to correct it. You may even have to separate yourself for a time so that they can understand that you are serious. 

Diversify your friendships - Naturally children of our friends become our kids' friends too! As mentioned earlier it's hard to allow something to persist that affects your friend. When a close friend tell us there reaction to an event or incident we tend not to brush it off. Even if racism doesn't happen to you you will begin to see it and call it out. I have friends that are white that point out racism and speak up for me and my family. Thus, being friends intimately with people that don't look like you is a revolution!

Travel the world - Get a passport and travel! The least racist adults I've met are the ones whose parents served as missionaries, were in the military, studied in a different country or traveled a lot. If you can't travel it's okay! We love watching Mark Weins on YouTube! He travels the entire world and eats! We live vicariously through him! He's been to Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan, Brazil, India, China, Peru and the list goes on and on! We watch as a family and love it! It's like a virtual social studies class but better! Exposure to various cultures is important!

Introduce them to black YouTubers - My boys love Onyx Kids. They are safe to watch and have tons of funny skits!

Research - Educate yourself on racism! Here are YouTube resources; 

Finally, don't beat yourself up about it! if you've taken the time to google search "How to raise anti racist children?" you're most likely doing a spectacular job! 

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