Listen, I’m not an expert on anything except maybe how to disappear your kid’s Halloween candy without them noticing. But I digress. My friends, I want to talk to you about race and racism and how to make sure we’re raising kids who don’t perpetuate the BS of previous generations.
It floored me when this topic came up in a local Facebook group. I live in an all-white, rural town full of housewives who spend each day selling each other their multi-level marketing company junk. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great, compassionate people in this town. Let’s just put it this way: any chatter that isn’t about diapers, gas prices or the weather will earn you a few sideways glances. The fact that someone brought this up in our little town was the sign of hope I was looking for this year. 2020’s been rough.
I spoke up and, of course, being the activist outcast I am, didn’t get too many responses, so I thought you guys might be more open to my ideas. So, how do I go about teaching my kids not to be racist in an almost all-white town? Here are some methods that I employ:
- We talk about it. Oh my Thor, we talk about it. This is not a taboo subject for the dinner table or anywhere else in our home. No, we don’t care to listen to the old boomer wisdom that suggests talking about politics, or social issues is impolite. Screw that. In our house, it’s rude not to talk about it. We’re talking about issues that are tied to life and fundamental rights. Just like on the news, the weather and sports come after the critical stuff. If you’re going to get your feathers ruffled because my 11-year-old wants to talk about police brutality over my buttery mashed potatoes, stay home—more taters for me.
- We talk about it more! Yeah, that’s right. I’m not going to rest until my kids get sick of it. I will pause the damned movie and explain the social issue being portrayed on screen and ask their opinions. It’s not uncommon for me to be up at midnight on a Friday, sitting on the couch with my kid, talking about the Bay of Pigs invasion or explaining Gandhian nonviolent resistance. The key is, you talk about it when it comes up. You don’t hush it because it’s “not the time or the place.” It’s always the time and the place to discuss the betterment of humanity.
- I participate in the democratic process. Understand this goes beyond just casting a single ballot every few years. Participating in a democracy is a lifestyle. You choose where you spend your money. You reach out to your representatives in the government when you care about issues and want to see change. You attend political rallies, and you sport your team colours, and you talk to your kids every step of the way. You make sure they see what you’re doing. You make sure they understand why you’re doing it.
- I set an example. It’s one thing to sit down with your kids and tell them all people should have equal opportunity, equal rights and hum the tune to Kumbaya, but showing your kids how to live is far more powerful. I am an activist, and I share my activist work with my family. They know what I do, why I do it and how I do it. It’s more than just me saying, “Be nice to people.” They see me treat people with respect and love. They see me fight for the rights of people who don’t look like us or don’t speak the same language. They see it every day, and I’d like to think it’s rubbing off on them.
- I get them participating in democracy, even though they are too young to vote. During Canada’s last federal election, I took my kids to a rally for one of our federal candidates. We cheered as he talked. We nodded in agreement and clapped. The room was crowded and sweaty, but we stuck around for my son to get a photo with him. He got a sign autographed by the man, and my kiddo walked away with a memory that normalizes political participation. Both my son and daughter fully understand that democratic participation is far more than just putting a ballot in a box.
- We cut ties with supremacists. I don’t want people around me, my kids or in my home who genuinely feel that any race is below us as white people. I don’t want those ideas pushed on my kids. My need to have a large social circle is far smaller than my need to sleep at night. Don’t get me wrong; I love having friends with vastly differing opinions than me. I can cope with people in my life who see race issues differently. But where I draw the line is when someone thinks whites are superior in some way. I can’t cope with people who seem to believe basic, fundamental human rights are only for some humans.
- We cut ties with people who only live in the fluff. You know the types, the ones who shut down the moment a tougher topic than the Bachelorette comes up. The rose-coloured glasses types, the ones that like to tell you that your politics are like farts: leave ’em in the car. No. Karen. YOU leave your potpourri in the car. Saying “I try to stay away from politics” or “I don’t like politics” isn’t gonna fly in my house. If you’re stupid enough to think you can live free of politics, you ain’t infecting my kids with that junk. I’m here to spread the word: it’s OKAY to talk about controversial stuff. That’s how we move forward!
- We promote critical thought. We expect that our kids can back up their positions on important issues and look for the evidence. We want them to ask questions, and so we always try to answer them right away and as honestly as we can. When we can’t give the answers, we show them how we might go about finding them.
- My kids are well-informed about what is going on in the world and have been since they could understand words. Your kids are never too young to start teaching basic human respect. Your kids are never too young to learn that some people don’t have it as good as they do. If you avoid topics because your kids are too young and the subject might upset them, recognize that’s because the topic is inherently upsetting and we don’t raise people who care enough to change it without them feeling a little upset from time to time. You can’t keep your kids from reality forever. You’re going to have the break the news at some point that our generation is leaving them with a ticking time bomb.
- We consume diverse content and content that will make us think. This is more because I feel like I don’t always do the best job of explaining complex issues to kids. It’s not for lack of trying, I just don’t think I am ever the perfect person for the job. Sometimes, you need to refer to materials that do it better. Sometimes you need to refer to the people who live the issue and who experience the issue and hear it in their words and see their emotion so you can trigger empathy.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m no expert. I don’t know that any of this has an impact on how my kids treat other people. It feels like it might, though. At the very least, something we are doing in this house is right, because both my kids care deeply about the rights of other people. Both my kids are eager to say, “Black Lives Matter”. Both my kids stand with the protestors. My daughter, especially, uses her social media to share messages of solidarity with the movement.
I want to know, how do you ensure your kids don’t grow up to be bigots? Let me know in the comments.
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