It is always good time to talk about race and racism. I have been wanting to write this post for a long time but the sense of urgency came with the story of Ahmaud Arbrey, a victim of hare crime. Ahmaud (a black man) was shot dead in America by two white men whilst he was simply jogging around his own neighbourhood. He was a victim of hate crime which took place in February, but no action was taken for more than 2 months. It is only now when a video showing his killing went viral that the men were finally arrested. The men were not arrested because the video exists, they were arrested because we all saw it. The fact that such a racist crime can go unnoticed and not be investigated unless there is pressure from the masses goes to show how systemically racist our institution is..
Before I embark on this blog on racism and why we should talk to our children about race, let me acknowledge my own privileges. I am a brown immigrant in the UK, that makes me a marginalised person yet I have so many other privileges that makes it all the more important that I use them to my best of abilities to talk and educate people around me about race. I am, for starters a CIS gendered able-bodied person, I am highly educated, I am financially self-sufficient and the list goes on….Having listed them, I’d like to say that white privilege outweighs them all in the world of race and racism. And so it is all the more important for white parents to raise a generation that is not only inclusive but also intersectional.
Why do White people need to talk about race and racism with their children?
If you are white, you have a privilege of colour and majority. Just because you think you are not racist does not exclude you from talking to your children about racism.
One of the biggest thing to remember is that white people have a massive privilege of NOT having to talk about racism with their children, an option not many people of colour like myself do not have. We have to make our children aware of the real life effects of our skin colour.
If you believe that colour doesn’t matter and that you want to raise your children to not see colour; you need to talk to your children about race. Raising ‘colour-blind’ children is very dangerous. For starters, to say that colour doesn’t matter and that children don’t see colour when they are young has not only been proven to be wrong. Research shows that children notice skin colour as early as six months and they start to show preferences towards people the same colour and features as them at around the age of 2.5 years. Hence, it is absolutely essential to talk about race with your children.
People get harassed, abused, killed, sacked from jobs, not given a raise, paid less and exploited on a daily basis only because of their skin colour. You do not have to try hard to find the fact. It is just one google search away. So let’s not pretend that if we choose to not see colour, racism will be over.
To not see colour is silencing. Silences perpetuates injustice. It encourages the mindset that only the experiences of white people matter and that if it isn’t experienced by some white person, then it isn’t validated.
As children get older, discuss the real-life incidences of racism with them from past and present. In order to have a world that tolerates different races, we need to allow our children to reflect on the incidences and join us in our fight against racism.
How can we talk to our children about Race and Racism?
- Acknowledge and Name : To start with, educate children with the different races and about their culture. Give them the right tools and vocabulary to talk about people of colour.
- Tell your children that people of different races can also be doctors, teachers, police officers etc especially if you live in an area that is predominantly white in nature. Tell them that it is not okay to treat them unfairly just because they are of a different colour. Being different is okay and this conversation needs to happen on a daily basis.
- Diversify their bookshelf : Actively seek out for books that have characters of different colour, culture and race. For older children, encourage them to read books written by non-white people. Here is a list of books that may help you talk about racism in particular.
- Be Mindful Of The Toys – If you children enjoy playing with dolls, try and diversify the dolls. We not only have a white blonde doll but also a black and a brown doll too. We also have toy food from different cultures like samosas, fried plantain etc If you child has a toy doctor or a fireman, make sure they are not always white in race representation. And if you are finding it hard to find toys representing different cultures, atleast use it as an opportunity to talk how these toys could have been someone from a different race too.
- Diversify your social circle – The more people of colour you have in your social circle, easier it is for your children to identify with them and see the injustices that they may face.
- Monitor Media Consumption – Everything from TV, games and the internet is very white centric. Introduce children to some international programs, watch some documentaries together and/or reflect on the imbalance or prejudices that they witness in media.
- Be Bold and Educate yourself – Just because you are white, don’t shy away from talking about racism in fear that you may say something wrong. We all make mistakes and learn from it. The best way to go about it to read on it as much as possible. I would highly recommend ‘Sway’ by Pragya Agarwal if you want to find out about your own unconscious bias etc. It is digest and an encyclopaedia of sorts to have on your book shelf.
- Challenge injustices – If you see somebody being treated unfairly based on their colour or race, challenge it in front of your children. Or tell your children about the actions you took to stand up against racism. Lead by example!
- Donate to social justice charities – If you are capable, contribute towards a charity that helps fight against injustices towards marginalised people. Money has a lot of power, by donating some money that can have immediate impact on the lives of people who have suffered can speak volumes.
There is a lot of work to be done, especially by White people, and it may feel uncomfortable and sometimes challenging. But such is the reality of any social change. And you can help bring social justice by talking to your children about race and racism.