- By listening, learning and doing the work myself
How can I raise anti-racist children if I’m not doing everything I can to be anti-racist myself?
This is an ongoing process, rather than a ‘do the work! tick! I’m done!’ situation.
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that my anti-racism journey only really started in May 2018 when I read Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. It opened my eyes and made me realise being a non-racist wasn’t enough. We have to actively fight racism.
The other brilliant book that has helped me is Layla F.Saad’s Me And White Supremacy. It’s a book you “do” rather than read, and it’s so good at helping us examine how we are complicit in systemic racism.
2. By not pretending that colour doesn’t exist
This is something I got wrong for years, as a parent. I wrongly believed that if I avoided talking about skin colour to my daughter, she wouldn’t notice differences between her and classmates, and it wouldn’t make it a ‘thing’.
But it is a thing. And it matters. To behave as though it doesn’t invalidates the identity and culture of Black people and dismisses generations of discrimination that Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have experienced.
Research shows that children start assigning meaning to skin colour at 18 months and can distinguish different races between the ages of four and six, so if us parents don’t talk about skin colour, they might start filling in the blanks with information they hear from others, some of whom could be prejudiced.
3. By having conversations about race
Kids can be inquisitive and it’s important to be open to questions about skin colour, rather than shutting them down out of embarrassment or fear of saying the wrong thing.
“It’s never too early to start talking about diversity,” says Dr Pragya Agarwal, author of Wish We Knew What To Say (Talking To Kids About Race). “Make talking about skin colour normal and encourage respectful curiosity. Never shush them or show that talking about someone’s skin colour is awkward or embarrassing.”
4. By reading kids’ books, watching TV and playing with toys that celebrate diversity
Children don’t just learn from what we tell them, they learn from everything that’s around them. “Representation matters,” blogger and writer Joy Ejaria told Red magazine recently. “So what kids are watching or reading can help shape how they see the world. Introducing them to books and TV shows with diverse characters can help build their understanding of a world that might not look like theirs.”
A 2019 report by Hopster found that top preschool TV shows poorly represent Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, but if you seek them out, there are TV shows, books and toys that offer good representation. Blogger Tinuke Bernard has a great list of books on her site as a starting point.
5. By having age-appropriate conversations about racism
Talking about skin colour is a start, but it’s vital that we have conversations about racism too. I’ve talked with my 10-year-old about George Floyd’s murder and we watched Diversity’s incredible dance on Britain’s Got Talent, discussing why 24,000 people might have complained to Ofcom.
Arming kids with the tools they need to tackle day to day issues is important too. “What would you do if someone said your Black friend’s hair is weird, or said your mixed race friend can’t play with them because her skin is too dark?”
6. By asking schools what anti-racism work they’re doing
Our school is great at celebrating Black History Month, but it’s important that schools don’t just cover Black history in October and then forget about it for the other 11 months of the year.
I’ve been having conversations with the head teacher about what anti-racism training they’re doing, and planning. And asking whether they are committed to reviewing and decolonising the curriculum. @EverydayRacism_ has a great letter template which you can use if you’re not sure how to approach your school about this.
A friend of mine is busy gathering anti-racism and Black history resources to share with the school to ensure they’re fully equipped to do this work. Nicola Washington has some great resources available and it’s worth checking out The Black Curriculum too.
7. By letting my kids see me call out racism
Part of being anti-racist is having difficult conversations about racism. You know the kind I mean. You’re sitting around the dinner table, Great Uncle Gerald pipes up with a racist comment and everyone stares at their plate. Letting those remarks go unchallenged is dangerous and can lead to others thinking it’s OK to make offensive comments.
Showing our children that racist remarks aren’t acceptable and demonstrating how to challenge them is a big part of being anti-racist. It’s difficult. But I remind myself that my discomfort is nothing compared to the generations of discrimination that Black, Indigenous and People of Colour have experienced.
What else would you add?