How I Raised Race-Conscious Kids

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You’re late, but it’s not too late.

As white parents, we have the privilege of teaching our children about racism, rather than having them experience it. White parents may think their children are too young to talk about race or to discuss social injustices, but people of color, especially black and indigenous people of color, do not have the luxury of choosing the time and place for their children to learn about racism.

Instead, children are thrust forth into the world of racism, which does not differentiate between children and adults. If you have not already been talking to your children about race, then you are late! It is time to swallow your pride, admit your wrongs, and do better. As the parents of white children, we must do our best to educate them and radicalize them toward a passion for social justice.

Educate yourself first.

The best thing you can do before teaching your kids is to educate yourself. Once you find yourself well versed in a subject, you can easily convey those ideas to a child in a way that they understand.

Research the Black history of America that is not taught in school:

  • George Stunney Jr.
  • The Tuskeegee Study
  • The Central Park Five
  • The Little Rock Nine
  • The purposeful destruction of black-owned property value in 1940’s – 1960’s Chicago
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”


Learn about intersectionality.

There are countless untold stories of black persecutions and struggles. Immerse yourself in this history no matter how uncomfortable it makes you; you are privileged just to have been able to remain comfortable until now.

Invite your child to ask questions. Children are born detectives. They have endless questions about how things work and why things are. If they ask you something and you don’t know, look it up. Give them an answer right then and there. This lets them know they can come to you for answers and trust you to help them understand.

Give them a history lesson.

The Black History Month lessons in school are nothing but watered-down propaganda. Rosa Parks sitting at the front of the bus was not the only event to take place during The Civil Rights Movement. I personally had little to no knowledge of the truth of racism in America until my twenties. (I still can’t comprehend how ignorant I was.)

Black people were stolen from their homes, taken as slaves, eventually freed, and then that was it… absolutely not!

Talk to your kids about Jim Crow and how different school was for black children. Tell them about Ruby Bridges. Show them her walk to school; how easy it is to relate to them that they too walk to school. They will see the persecution of a child-like them due to the color of her skin.

Ruby Bridges is only 65. She is the same age as many of our children’s grandparents.

Photos taken during The Civil Rights Movement are often shown in black and white in order to make it seem like it was much farther in the past. Put a timeline in perspective, make sense of the gray area that forms between 1865 and now due to a lack of information provided in school.

Find something your child is interested in and discuss the erasure of black people in that field. Talk to your space obsessed daughter about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These women put a man in space! Yet most people had not even heard of them until a movie came out.

Be realistic.

Don’t sugarcoat what’s really going on now. The lives lost due to institutionalized racism, systemic racism, individual racism, and police brutality were the lives of real people. They had value when they were alive, but our society did not see it that way.

Every person on this Earth holds the same inherent value, it is not something that fluctuates with culture, race, or socioeconomic status.

Eric Garner, Emmett Till, Akai Gurley, Breonna Taylor, Dante Parker, Calin Roquemore, Jamar Clark, Kionte Spencer, Sandra Bland, Tony Mcdade, George Floyd, Phillip White, Michael Brown, Natasha Mckenna, Felix Kumi, Eric Harris, Anthony Ashford, Alexia Christian, Billy Ray Davis, Philandro Castile, Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, Pamela Turner.

If you skipped a single name while reading, go back. If you think this is too long of a list to read, you should know this is only a tiny fraction of the black lives lost for no reason — that we know about.

Tell your children about Tamir Rice, tell them about Trayvon Martin. They were babies. Tell them that there was no justice for these children, simply because of their appearance. Emphasize the fact that black people are persecuted for no reason.

Don’t be colorblind.

“I don’t see color” is problematic.

We must see color and acknowledge the differences between us. Not because it changes our value, but because it changes our individual experience. We could never imagine what it is like to be black, and that needs to be taken into account.

Acknowledge differences in features and skin tone and emphasize that they are not an indicator of personality, value, or ability. Talk to your white kids about the privilege they experience due to their skin.

Raise an anti-racist.

It is not enough to not be racist. Raise a child who will combat racism in any form that it presents itself in. Teach them the subtle ways that their black friends will experience racism so that if they are with them, they can intervene, but make it clear that they are not white saviors.

Teach them to call out their other friends who make racist comments or jokes. It is uncomfortable to go against the norm within a friend group, but racism should make them far more uncomfortable than their friend being mad at them.

Start early.

Babies can notice race-based differences as early as 6 months of age. There is no reason for your child to only have books, movies, and toys representative of white people. Encourage your kids to pick diverse toys. Your kid likes the Avengers? Why not get a Falcon action figure?

Seriously, one of the best Marvel films is Black Panther which has an almost entirely black cast!

Get your school-aged children the Who Was? series which features many black people in history. It is just as easy now to get your kid a book on female leaders in black history as it is to get a copy of Goodnight Moon.

Before a certain age, you are the sole curator of your child’s library and toys. If you have toddlers, why not pick up a diverse set of wooden peg dolls instead of ones that are all one color? You can find tons of people making homemade wooden toys that have diverse skin tones. Make it normal to buy toys that represent all races, genders, and abilities.

Be an example.

By trying out these ideas you are not doing anyone a favor, you are meeting the basic standards that we should be held to as parents to educate our children.

The best thing you can do is lead by example.

Sit them down with you as you sign petitions. Talk to them about what causes you are donating to. Take them to a protest. There are countless peaceful protests daily now.

Those of us with young children are raising a radical generation and we must put our best efforts forward.

Check your own privilege and educate your little ones.

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