Fighting For Race Equality
George Floyd‘s horrific death has thrown the US and the world into a tailspin. Personally, as a white woman who lives in a not-so-diverse suburban town in New Jersey, I have never experienced discrimination due to my race. I know I will never understand that level of prejudice, but I am taking a stand to listen and learn from my black brothers and sisters, on what I can do to support them and walk alongside them, making the world a more loving and accepting place for all races.
As a white mom, I am searching my heart and my mind on what I can do to make a difference in fighting against inequality and racism starting with my home and my little family. Most importantly, I am brainstorming ideas on how I can teach my children to love one another. I want them to know and understand on a deep level that no matter how different someone is from you, and certainly no matter what the color someone’s skin is, we are called to love them and treat them as we want to be treated. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12)
John 15:12 says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
If you are living in similar circumstances to mine, you might have some of the same questions. Here are some resources I have found about talking to your young children about race and racism (Source):
Race: 7 Tips for White Parents Raising Diversity-Aware Kids:
1. Acknowledge differences.
Hate is a learned behavior. It is so much easier to teach your children to love than it is to hate. Your children will learn to dislike or hate someone of a different race (or that has any differences than they do) because they are shown how to do so, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When we don’t acknowledge racial differences, we are actually setting our children up to make their own decisions and opinions about people of different races. And usually, when children decide something is different, they shy away from it and decide they don’t like it. That is why it is so important to acknowledge racial differences at a very young age, and explain that people come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes.
“Making too big a deal of the question and over-examining differences can signal that there’s something wrong with diversity. ‘The message you want to send is that, though people may look different on the outside, they’re all the same inside,’ Dr. Poussaint says.” (Source)
2. Be a positive role model.
Our children learn from our modeled behavior. We need to check our own biases and display proactive behaviors against inequality. When your friend tells a culturally insensitive joke, do you say something? Or do you laugh, showing your kids you are in agreement? If we show our kids how to take a stand against racism and not tolerate it, they will learn to follow suit.
3. Talk about bigotry.
Our children are exposed to stereotypes at a very young age. Even their cartoons express villains with “different” names and looks and princesses with white skin and blue eyes. We can point out those stereotypes and explain that that is actually not the norm. Not all princesses and “beautiful” people look the same. We can find beauty in other peoples’ differences. In fact, being different is what makes people beautiful.
4. Encourage empathy.
Giving my kids empathy and showing them how to give it to others is one of my favorite parenting lessons. If we can teach our kids how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, and to feel what they are feeling we are able to raise compassionate kids that love others well, no matter what they look like. If you ask a child how they would feel if someone was mean to them just because of their skin color, I think you can really plant an empathic seed.
5. Expose your child to diversity.
This is something I need to work harder to do. I didn’t realize it until recently, but my children (who LOVE to read) do not have a very diverse library. Most of the books they read have white characters or just plain talking animals. I am making a conscious effort to diversify our library by ordering not only diverse books but also children’s books that directly address racism at an appropriate level.
I will also make an effort to buy more diverse toys. I’ll admit that my boys have never been very interested in baby dolls, but I know there are diverse dolls with different skin colors that would help familiarize kids with different races. I am also going to look into superheroes and action figures with different skin tones.
Here are examples of racially diverse books for kids:
Teach Your Dragon About Diversity
And this Instagram account has been extremely helpful with tips about talking to kids about race: @theconsciouskid
6. Foster a strong sense of identity.
If you teach your kid to be confident in themselves and love themselves then they will easily love others. When a kid lacks confidence and has low-self-esteem, the door opens for criticizing and belittling others. As Christian parents, it is so important to encourage our children to know their identity in Christ. We need to let them know they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (see Psalm 139) and that their life has a great purpose.
Teach your kids to love the things that make them different (like my kids’ red hair!) so that they can look at others and love the different things about them as well.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
7. Don’t tolerate prejudice of any kind.
The bottom line is respect. We are all created equally in God’s image and every living being deserves respect.
“To raise a tolerant child, you need to help your child learn to value everyone as a human being,’ Dr. Langman says. “(Source) It is up to us to address racist jokes, comments, and stereotypes when we see them, hear them, or come across them in any way. And right now, your kids are watching your reaction to present-day racism and Geroge Floyd’s death. Are you angry for your brother in Christ, who was targeted and murdered? Talk to them and show them that this matters to God, to you, to your family, and our world. Then lead by example and show them how to make a difference.