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Here's Why You Should Talk To Your Kids About Racism

by Petiri Ira 2 months ago in advice

We cannot live in utopian bubbles anymore

Photo by Theme Inn on Unsplash

“We don't play with people like you,” she uttered.

This was in first grade and I vividly remember approaching a white group of friends and asking them if I could join in their games and one of them said this. At 5–6 years old, a statement and having a discriminatory mentality like this is taught and parents have to make an active effort to teach their children to be anti-racist.

Already having racist beliefs and attitudes towards Black people in the first grade is horrifying and imagine what they will grow up into as they grow older.

Not Racist vs. Anti-Racist

There is a distinction between being “not racist” and “anti-racist”. Parents would raise their kids to be “not racist” often use this to avoid having conversations about race and ethnicity with their children. This is because they may be uncomfortable and ill-prepared themselves to open up about the unequal world that we live in. See, the issue with being “not racist” is that it does not go deep into social injustice issues and it is a guise to seem as if you are not a part of the racist white society. However, it is playing into racism, as you are not making an active effort to be against all forms of racism.

The problem is that kids instead learn about race and racism from society — and all too often that society is steeped in racial biases. Therefore, they are not learning about the issue from their parents, rather from the point of view that is not anti-racist itself.

Instead, parents should teach their children to be “anti-racist”. This would provide children to grow up with a mentality that seeks to fight racism. Children will adopt equal beliefs and attitudes, which is what we need for upcoming generations. Implicit bias would also be reduced, as children will be taught to see different races, ethnicities, and cultures as equal and no different, in essence.

The “colourblind” approach will not get you anywhere.

I say parents should not encourage their children to be “colourblind”. It is an idea that suggests that simply denying that there are differences in how we see and treat people of colour is the best way to prevent racism. However, this is counter-productive and will actually make racism worse. Racial colourblindness bypasses tough conversations, leading to children living unrealistic bubbles of a utopian world.

Parents should not encourage their children to say that they "don't see race" and that they ''do not see colour''. These remarks are cushioning a safety net of phrases that act to avoid discussing vital social issues. Rather than dodging conversations, kids should be taught to be open about learning about racial disparities in the world. After all, racism is also interpersonal, and being anti-racist requires children to be knowledgeable as they contribute to the iceberg that is racism.

Being racially colourblind results in the denial and invalidation of Bipoc experiences. Children need to hear stories about how those around them face discrimination this will help children understand the different forms of prejudice marginalised groups. Aiding in preventing them from doing the same thing.

Lastly, this approach ignores prevalent systemic issues. It is no secret that the system is not made for people who look like me, it is very much against people of colour. And asserting that you don't see colour contributes to the upkeep of systemic racism. We cannot raise children to see racism in one stream, that one stream being on a skin-to-skin basis because it goes far deeper than that.

Do not lie to yourself and your children in believing that denying racism exists will eradicate it because it won't. Children should be prepared for the world that they are living in and how their anti-racist efforts can contribute to change.

Examining your own biases will benefit your children.

Children who spew out racial remarks from a young age often learn from their parents. Therefore, as a parent, you have to be an excellent role model. Children are sponges they learn and duplicate actions from their elders. If you hold biases, you will carbon copy those racist ideals onto your offspring. It is essential to model the behaviours and beliefs you want your children to have as they grow up.

If you notice yourself getting nervous around Black people in stores and judging people with a darker skin tone than you, you have biases that need to be addressed. Read and reflect on your implicit attitudes once you understand your biases, you can begin taking active steps to challenge them.

Challenging biases comes with being informed. There are tons of resources online, a plethora of books, and plenty of people to have frank and open discussions with.

You will positively impact our society.

If you raise your children to see race and learn how racism has created an unjust and equal world, you will change the horizons of the upcoming generations. Our society needs children to grow as anti-racists, as it is one way we can move forward progressively. Racism cannot continue to spew over from generation to generation. The train needs to move in an impactful direction. Children are the gatekeepers of our world and if we want an equal world, with equal opportunities and peace for the oppressed, parents need to educate the children on racism.

Where do we go from here?

Have an anti-racist approach and use it to make a difference, apply it to yourself as a parent and then go on to reciprocate that onto your children. Everyone is needed to make a difference.

advice

Petiri Ira

I am a Race, Society and Culture writer. I write opinion pieces and personal essays on the Black experience in our society. My articles provide readers with actionable takeaways they can take to aim for change and progression.

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