How to Talk to Kids About Racism, Right Now, & In a Way That Matters

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diverse family at the table.
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Racial tensions are high in America, and one thing remains apparent: This moment will go down in history and it will change this country forever. Our children are also a part of this historic moment and I think we are all considering whether to involve our children in racial justice or try to shield them from it.  

As a parent who has always had conversations on racial justice with my black children, I have some insight on how to introduce this topic in your family. It is important to know these are not steps meant to be taken in chronological order. These are steps to be worked on simultaneously. If you wait until you are satisfied with perfecting one step, you will never make it to the next one. 

  • 1. Make a legitimate commitment.

    First, make a commitment to doing impossibly hard work on the marathon that is racial justice, and to remaining empathetic and compassionate towards black people. Without this commitment, none of your work will be intentional or sustainable.

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  • Educate yourself beyond memes and message boards on social media.

    Discover deeper conversation by reading books on racial justice written exclusively by black people. Ensure that black people are paid for our experiences, trauma, and our scholarship. It is unacceptable to put funds and credibility in the hands of a white person while under the premise of aiding in justice for black people. In honor of your commitment to be intentional about developing empathy and compassion, you have to learn to trust and believe black voices.

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  • 3. Normalize conversations on racial justice.

    Talk about what you are reading. Talk about what you are learning. It doesn't have to be a special time that you set aside. You can casually work in conversations about white privilege, empathy towards black people, and current events into all of your conversations. Something I like to say to my children is, "We are a family that talks about things that are hard." I say this to my children all the time, as we discuss politics at dinner casually.

  • 4. Lastly, get into the discussion on white guilt and making amends.

    Allow your kids to express guilt and help them cope by giving them tangible ways to work through it. Let your kids volunteer at community centers, donate toys to black children, offer to do story time in black day cares, and so forth. None of this will change systemic oppression, but it will build empathy and normalize racial justice within your homes.

  • Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. 

    Talking about racial justice to children at any age is hard, but keep these four goals in mind:  Commitment to long-term work, empathy, education, normalization, and amends. Your work as an ally will be as imperfect and ever-changing as your work as a parent. The point is to stay the course and to keep showing up.  

    To register for a free workshop on how to talk to children about racial justice June 12, 2020, at 7 p.m. EST, click here