Co-authored by Harmony Hobbs, Huffington Post contributor
We know what you're thinking: what do two white women from the deep South know about race that I don't? What could they possibly tell me that I don't already know?
It turns out, we can tell you a lot.
We live in Baton Rouge. The city that you are currently seeing every time you open your Facebook feed or watch television with your family. This is the city that the rest of the nation has watched for the last two weeks and collectively made the statement that this kind of stuff doesn't happen in other parts of the country.
But it does.
Before we started to write this, we went looking for statistics on our country as a whole. According to the latest Hate Crime Statistics available from the FBI, 47 percent of all hate crimes nationally are racially motivated. This is happening in all areas of the country, not just the deep South.
We both send our children to public school in Baton Rouge, an act that causes people to gasp when they find this out because most white families within the city limits send their children to private or parochial school. Our children go to school in diverse environments, which includes every race that lives within our state. We seek out diversity, and many have asked 'why'. Many white citizens of Baton Rouge believe that white privilege is only for affluent families, that it is not applicable to all members of their race. They mistakenly believe that they are excluded from this category because they are not wealthy, when in reality, it applies to all white people because simply being born into white skin is considered a privilege. Many white individuals in Baton Rouge believe that diversity is not their problem, a sentiment reflected in much of America.
But it is.
Our children will go off into the world whether we like it or not and they will not constantly be surrounded their own race. Our job as mothers, fathers, and parents, is to be their first teacher and their first leader educating them on privilege and race relations. It is a common misconception that privilege means wealth when, in fact, it means you have the good fortune of being born with a certain color of skin or gender.
White parents, in particular, carry the burden of responsibility in changing the perceptions of the next generation. We need to teach our children to listen to other perspectives and revel in our differences. We need to quit claiming to be colorblind, when instead, we should embrace the differences, see other races and appreciate the diversity that they bring to different communities.
Just like teaching our children proactively about right and wrong, sex education, responsible alcohol consumption, we must proactively teach them about privilege and race.
We are currently repeating the mistakes in history from fifty years ago. Are we really going to let our children make the same mistakes fifty years from now? Just because it is uncomfortable to have the conversation?
Our answer is no.
Ask your children what they know about other races. Ask if them if they have any questions about the history lessons they are learning in school. We have both asked our children in the last few days if they had any questions about what was happening in Baton Rouge. It turns out, they did. Our sons asked why was this happening, why do people think we are fighting because of our skin color? Why is Baton Rouge on the news? The important thing for us to do as mothers right now is to listen to what they are asking. They don't know what the right answer is, they are just looking to understand.
Children absorb more than we give them credit for. In our experience, it is best to face these questions head on. Tell them, in age appropriate terms, what is happening, that there are good and bad people in every race and every walk of life. In a child's world full of fairy tales and superheroes, they understand the struggle between good and evil.
These conversations are uncomfortable. We know because we have them, and we have them often. Many times, we have to seek out the knowledge of others standing on the opposite side to fully understand our collective ground. We want to understand, and more often than not, they want to understand, too. This means humbly asking your black friends how to become an ally. Call your black friends and ask them how do they see the current events? How do people view them?
In light of all the horrific occurrences happening right now because of a few hateful individuals, we implore you to take the opportunity to talk to your kids about race.
Talk to them before someone else does.
*this originally ran as a guest post on Housewife Plus on the Bangor Daily News