I feel that this is a perfect time to discuss the sensitive topic about how to talk about race with your kids. Today I am going to focus on how to talk to your White kids about race. Look, our country is in a state of turmoil: Black kids are getting shot and killed and policeman are in turn getting shot largely in part because of a very heated climate in our country. Like everything else things begin in the home. Kids learn attitudes, ethics and how to approach and think about others largely through modeling. I will dare to go a step further here. Racism is taught in the home by what is said and by what is not said. Stay with me as I walk you through 6 ways that parents can avoid imparting racism. You may be with me or not but please hear me out and let's start the dialogue.
1. Watch your language. Specifically, avoid using the term colorblind. We are not colorblind. In fact, race is often the first thing we notice when we look at someone. Using the term colorblind is synonymous with saying " I don't want to talk about race." Ignoring race means ignoring not only color but also culture and history. In fact, some believe that it is part of White privilege to avoid talking about race. Talk to your kids about race and have them learn about Black culture and history. This is a crucial part of the history of our country and people.
2. Be mindful of your own biases. The majority of White people do not identify as "racist." Subtle biases and signs of racism are, however, displayed in actions. These actions are referred to as micro-aggression and include pulling a purse closer, crossing the street and/or locking your car doors around Black individuals. Kids see these actions and while they may not consciously process them they internalize them. Be aware of the micro-aggressive behavior you may be engaging in and what message this sends consciously or unconsciously.
3. Be careful not to associate color with crime. Yes there are White neighborhoods and Black neighborhoods that are poor and ridden with crime. Crime-ridden neighborhoods are not the exclusive domain of poor Black neighborhoods. Be careful with comments like "don't go there after dark" and 'you'll get robbed there". Explain that it is the crime that you are worried about not the skin color of the neighborhood. You do not want your kids to associate poverty and crime as exclusive to the Black population.
4. Do not ignore the news. In fact, I would suggest watching the news with your older kids. With your older kids make sure that they are aware of some of the horrible killings of Black men that occur on a not infrequent basis. Talk to your kids about this. Engage them in conversation about face relations and oppression. Your kids need to be in tune with their culture. If you ignore these conversations your kids will get the message that race is a taboo topic. Our goal is to raise kids in the know;right? Furthermore, if you avoid discussing racially charged news your children will sense your discomfort and carry these feelings into their interactions. Ignorance is not bliss.
5. Never ever shut down conversations about race. Yes, the topic may be uncomfortable. And, yes some parents do not feel well-equipped to engage in these conversations. These conversations may bring up difficult feelings. Educate yourself if you feel like you are not equipped to handle the topic. Consider doing some reading with your kids. Being informed beats discomfort and silence.
6. Do not make assumptions. Do not assume that your son's Black friend is on the basketball team. Basketball is not the exclusive sport of one race. Comments like this show your children your biases and they then get passed down to them. Children use our viewpoints as their frame of reference as they grow up.