As a mama, when crazy things go down in the world, my heart immediately goes to the babies trying to learn & navigate & somehow GROW in all of this. They observe & absorb so much more than we realize & its genuinely heart-wrenching at times to have to talk to them about the big subjects. My stomach dropped when my child asked me if his father, an essential worker, had the Corona virus. He didn't & doesn't thankfully; but my three year old noticed that we were staying home to stay safe & Daddy was going out. But a virus, even more deadly & prevalent right now, is Racism. & no amount of staying inside or shutting away is going to shield those we love from the toxicity that is systematic racism, not even our children.
My boys, though only three & one & a half, have faced discrimination because their mother is Black, even as early as 4 months old.
Because my children are mixed & white passing, it has been important to me to talk to them about racism since they were only months old. It's been important to me that they have understanding & representation of all elements of their heritage, of their African American lineage & their European, & their South Asian & their Pacific Islander.
I've had the privilege of opening up conversations in white spaces lately to talk about systematic racism & how white women especially can leverage their privilege to create a safer world for Black lives everywhere. An absolutely vital & completely essential part of that, is in how we raise our children. How can we raise the next generation of teachers, leaders & most importantly, Allies?
1. Do The Internal Work, First.
Systematic racism affects us all & while we may live a life of inclusivity, subconscious racism & privilege based action is still very prevalent in our culture & in ourselves. With our children, it is extremely important to lead by example. That's why we hide in the closet with our treats that we don't want to share, because we know if they see us eating the unhealthy, gooey, sugary things that they will want it, too. If our kids hear us, using words or phrases that are blaming, derogatory or prejudice toward the Black Community, guess what? So will they. The cycle doesn't stop with your children, it stops with YOU. Start by doing a deep dive into systematic racism with movies like the 13th & Selma & books like White Fragilty by Robin DiAngelo.
2. Allow For Representation & Diversity in The Things You Bring Into Your Home
Think about the magazine on the coffee table, the dolls in your child's toy chest, the music streaming while you cook dinner, the shops & vendors you purchase from & support, the service workers you hire. Make it a point for your children to see you going out of your way to support the Black community by giving them equal representation in your home. Intentionally show them positive examples of other races in the media they consume, be it watching, reading or listening. Diversity in the home normalizes diversity in the World.
3. Learn The Terminology, Together.
In the conversation against racism, things can get scary if only because the terminology can seem so overwhelming, especially to a child. This is why I created a poster specifically for broaching some of the big words that come up when we're having healthy informed conversations about race. When we can approach the terminology of race in a way that opens up conversation, it naturally leads to facilitating learning-based action for our Little Allies. Here's a list of the words featured on my A is for Ally Poster: Use this list of definitions in tandem with the poster's illustrations for an easy-to-swallow lesson on racism & how our kids can be strong & educated in taking a stand & making a change.
A is For Ally : An Ally is someone who commits to supporting another person, group or cause.
B is for Black: Black people, or African Americans, are descendants from people who were stolen from Africa and brought to America to work in slavery. Black people have a darker complexion & have contributed many wonderful things to American society even though they have been oppressed & treated poorly for hundreds of years.
C is for Colonization: For a long time, white people believed that they were better than people with dark skin. They thought that people with dark skin were dirty & unintelligent so they took over their lands & stole their resources & enslaved their people. This is wrong.
D is for Diversity: Diversity is a when there are people of all colors, shapes, sizes, races, gender identities & levels of ability included in one space.
E is for Equality: Equality is when everyone has the same rights & opportunities.
F is for Fragility: It can sometimes be uncomfortable for a white person to know that they are part of a racist country, & their fragility might make them angry when talking about race.
G is for Gentrification: Gentrification is when people of color are forced to leave their homes in a specific area to make room for white people.
H is for History: History is the story of our country. A lot of the history told about slavery & African-Americans is often incorrect or buried. It is our job to speak for truth & recognize Black accomplishments & Black struggles in history.
I is for Inclusion: Inclusion is when you make sure that you give equal access to opportunities and resources to people who might otherwise not get the same chance.
J is for Justice: Fair Behavior or Treatment
K is for Kindness: Kindness is being friendly, generous or considerate. When we go out of our way to make sure that someone of color is being included, treated fairly & feeling comfortable when they are with us, that is kindness.
L is for Love: There are many types of love & forms of love. People of different races & colors can be in love & have a family. A white person & a black person can have deep friendships & connection. It is most important that we show love to our fellow human, by being kind & considerate & standing up when we see them being treated poorly.
M is for Movement: A movement is when a group of people come together to make a change. The Black Lives Matter movement is a movement for empowering & strengthening the Black community & gaining safety & equality in America.
N is for No Excuses: It is NEVER okay to make someone feel less then because of the color of their skin. It is NEVER okay to use hateful words or speech. It is NEVER okay to exclude someone , harm someone, or judge someone because they look different than you do. That is wrong.
O is for Oppression: Oppression is when someone is put in an unfair & painful situation for a long time. The Black race has been oppressed in America for hundreds of years & it sometimes can lead to death.
P is for Privilege: In America, White people often have more opportunities & money, as well as better education & protection. This is called White Privilege.
Q is for Question: It is important to ask questions to learn. Some things you can ask questions about are: Black History. Black Artists. Slavery. DNA. Juneteenth. The Civil War. Lets learn about these things together in a safe & open space.
R is for Race: A race is a group of people sharing the same culture, history language & often physical features, like skin tone or nose shape. There are many race groups but we are all of the human family.
S is for Stand Up: When we see someone being treated unfairly, or bullied because they are Black, we need to be an ally & take a stand for what we know is right. Put your hand out & say Stop! This is not okay!
T is for Teach: It is important that we teach others what we know about Black History & being an Ally to the Black Community so that they can join us in protecting & loving our Black family, too.
U is for Unity: Unity of when people of different backgrounds & races come together to live as a peaceful whole in a fair & equal environment.
V is for Validate: In America, Black people have lived a lot of sad & scary stories. It is important to hear these stories & be a safe space for our Black family to speak freely about the unfairness they've lived through. Practice saying: I see you. I hear you. I love you.
W is for Wealth Disparity: In our country, oppression & unfairness has led to less opportunities for Black people & therefore less money or wealth. Wealth disparity is when the money is not distributed evenly or fairly throughout society. One way we can help to fight racism is to support Black businesses, services, entertainers & farmers.
X is for Xenophobia: Xenophobia is when someone is afraid of people that look differently than them. Most racism starts from a fear of differences & a fear of losing control.
Y is for Youth Activism: Youth Activism is when kids or young people get involved in social change. Your voice is powerful & you CAN make a difference.
Z is for Zenith: Zenith is the time at which something is most powerful or successful. The time is RIGHT NOW to make a change for the better for Black people and you have the power to help in making that happen.
4. Diversify Your Experiences:
Use exercises like coloring or reading to learn about Racism, Activism & Positive Black History together. Go to immersive events that showcase cultures different than your own. Give your child an allowance & research local business to find Black owned businesses that they can personally support with their own money. Pave the way for your child to be an ally to the community. 5. Finally, Do your best.
This race thing isn't about politics or corporations or police, its about morals. If we are truly operating at our best, if we are being honest with ourselves about our beliefs we KNOW that Black lives matter, that Black lives deserve the same rights, the same education & the same opportunity for wealth that white American's have. & if we know that, it is our responsibility to act on that. This all links back to the first point, to leading by example. Our children will follow our lead. They will see that mommy or daddy stands up when they see people being treated unfairly. They will see that you are doing your best to support & uplift the Black community while also doing the inner work to restrain your own white fragility & they will follow suit.
I'm proud of you & the work you're doing. You've got this, Mama
For more anti-racist resources & artwork click here