The Dos and Dont’s of Talking to Kids of Color About White Supremacy

By Hilary Beard, Colorlines, 

Now that you’re settling into the reality that the images we saw from Charlottesville were from 2017 and not the days of Jim Crow, it’s time to get proactive about parenting during the Trump Era. Though you might have hoped that your children would grow up in a different world from where you came from, the swamp has arisen and racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are alive and slithering along the ground.

So what should you say to your children post-Charlottesville? Now is not the time to tiptoe around tough topics or give your children unclear messages about your values and beliefs or the realities of what happens when bigotry and terror suddenly escalate, as Deandre Harris and Heather Heyer tragically experienced over the weekend.

These dos and don’ts will help guide your parenting in this time of unhooded White supremacy.

Do put on your own mask first. Make time to de-stress and let your blood pressure go down. Your children will pick up on your anxiety if you don’t.

Do reflect on your experiences with bias and bigotry. Many parents struggle with what to tell their children about difficult topics because they don’t want to pass along their own baggage and unresolved issues. Consequently, many adults are more skilled in not talking about uncomfortable topics than in talking about them. Thinking about your history with these issues will help you clarify the values you want to convey and the behaviors you want your children to demonstrate.

Do protect them from your own internalized bias. Media and society convey relentless negative messages about people of color and others who are pushed to the margins of society. Like smog, everyone inhales them—even you. Take the Implicit Association Test, which measures unconscious, or implicit, bias you hold around race, gender, sexual orientation, mental health and other dimensions of the human experience. Becoming aware of how we really feel helps us recognize and interrupt harmful behaviors. Also take the bias cleanse MTV developed with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.