New Podcast Episode: How to Talk to Your Children about Racism

[Podcast] How to Talk to Your Children about Racism

podcast Jun 09, 2020

As parents, it is OUR responsibility to break the generational patterns of racism. It is our responsibility to be the change and empower our children to be the change. It’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.  We should all be doing more, so today I am sharing what I have found in my own research on how we can talk to our kids about race and racism. This is not an exhaustive list, I am not an expert on racism and I don’t have all of the answers, I am just a real mom wanting to learn and help other moms do the same.

 

 Join the Motherhood Aligned Facebook Group

Watch the CNN + Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism

View Chicago Parent's List of Racism Books for Children

 

 No time to listen? No problem - here's the transcript:

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all having a great week. Man, has 2020 thrown us for a loop this year. Right? So many of us have been dealing with so much over the past few months that I wanted to just take a second to ask how you’re doing. So, how ARE you doing? Like how are you really doing? Whatever your answer is, I want you to know you’re not alone. There are so many of us going through these things together and you can’t deny that trying to parent through it adds another layer of complexity. So I decided to create a Motherhood Aligned Facebook group where we could all come together in a positive manner. Discussions will be centered around the same things we talk about here on the podcast. Motherhood, family, feeling good, and aligning our lives around what’s most important. So I invite you to come on over and be one of the founding members of the Motherhood Aligned Facebook group. You can find a link in the show notes or just head to facebook.com/groups/motherhoodaligned. I really hope to see you there, but for now let’s get to today’s episode. 

 

Welcome back, everyone! For today’s episode we are going to tackle a really big topic. As I am recording this there are thousands and thousands of Americans protesting in the streets. They are protesting because today, in 2020, we are still divided. Racism still exists. And as parents it is OUR responsibility to break the generational patterns of racism. It is our responsibility to be the change and empower our children to be the change. I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old and have always prided myself on raising them to treat everyone the same regardless of any differences BUT I am learning each day and realizing that I need to be doing even more. I heard this quote last week and it made an impact on me. It said,  It’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.  We should all be doing more, so today I am sharing what I have found in my own research on how we can talk to our kids about race and racism. This is not an exhaustive list, I am not an expert on racism and I don’t have all of the answers, I am just a real mom wanting to learn and help other moms do the same. 

 

So before I jump into how we can talk to our children about race raising anti-racist children, I wanted to share a quick story. Yesterday morning we were watching tv, something sports related was on and I honestly couldnt even tell you what it was, but they cut to a story about Michael Jordan and that he was donating $100Million dollars to Black Lives Matter. While I was blown away by that number, my 6 year old who is obsessed with basketball players and the game, looked at me and said “Wait, Michael Jordan is BLACK?!” He has seen Michael Jordan at least 100 times on tv and it occurred to me that all he sees is a really great athlete. Despite us having talks about race and diversity, He didn’t seem to notice the color of his skin. It just didn’t occur to him to think about it. I want him to know that no matter what our skin color is, what language we speak, how tall we are, what our hair looks like - we are all the same on the inside and none of the physical stuff matters. On a side note, noticing color IS important because it’s important to realize even though we are the same on the inside, we may have vastly different experiences often due only to the color of our skin. 

 

And the reality is, most people DO notice skin color. It’s natural. In fact, studies show that babies between 6months to a year begin recognizing differences in skin color and hair texture and, while they notice these differences, they don’t discriminate by nature. So one of the best things you can do as a parent, even starting at this young age, is to expose your children to diversity. Make diversity normal in your home. The more it is normalized in the home, and the more exposure they have, the more it really becomes normal in their lives. You can do this through books, music, and toys. Read them books about children who are different from them, play music from different cultures and buy them toys that look different than them. 

I received a list of books from chicagoparerent.com that can help you explain racism to kids. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz  is a board book that explains all the different colors of people using food (for example, French toast and honey.) And while racism as a broad term isn’t discussed in the book, it reminds kids that people can’t be painted using the same brush. 

Another book recommended for babies through age 4 is Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi: this book gives nine simple steps for parents to start their kids on a path toward being anti-racist. From seeing and accepting all colors to admitting when we do or say something that is racist, babies and parents can follow this list towards antiracism.

As your children are growing up, It’s important that you don’t avoid race as a topic of conversation.  Its important to be talking about it within your family proactively. Some parents think avoiding the subject shows race isn’t  a big deal and they try to quietly lead by example, but If your kids aren’t talking about it with you, they are most certainly picking up on it elsewhere and without an open conversation they may begin to draw their own conclusions about racial differences despite your best intentions. 

 

So here are a few more quick tips for talking with your kids about race and ultimately raising children who are anti-racist.

 

  1. Educate yourself and be prepared to talk about race-based events, both past and present. 
  2. Encourage questions from your kids and answer them honestly. If you dont have an answer on the spot, it’s ok to do some research and come back with an answer
  3. Listen to the things your children say. It is perfectly normal for your children to notice differences in people, but if you start to hear them attaching judgements to those differences you should discuss it. You can ask them why they think that way and teach them about stereotypes.
  4. Teach them what racism is and how to recognize it. You can have age appropriate conversations and open discussions. I just watched CNN and Sesame Streets townhall on racism with my 6 year old this past weekend. It was a great way to initiate the conversation and open up the floor for any questions he had. I will link to it in the show notes if they have made the replay available. 
  5. And I will end with this one - don’t make talking about race and racism a one time thing because it’s trending right now. I think it is more important than ever to recognize we need to be doing more. I know it’s something I will be much more intentional about in my parenting moving forward.

 

As I said in the beginning of this episode, the earlier you start these conversations and normalizing diversity the better but there has also never been a better day than today. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. It is up to all of us to be anti-racist. Our children are depending on us and learning from us. 

Thank you so much for listening. I hope you’ll head over to our new Motherhood Aligned Facebook group and share any additional tips you’d like to add. 

I’ll talk to you soon.

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