Point of View

Painful but necessary: Why I stopped putting off the racism talk with my daughter

As a woman of colour raising biracial children, Samantha Kemp-Jackson writes she has always been very aware that their reality will one day include the experience of being discriminated against solely for the way they appear. She shares why she finally quit putting off the talk with her daughter and why other parents, of all races, should do the same.

Talk opens door to a world where ignorance is not bliss and racism must be confronted head-on

Demonstrators stand in front of the East Baton Rouge Parish City Hall doors on Monday. (Reuters)

"There are people who will not like you because of the colour of your skin."

As a woman of colour raising biracial children, I have always been very aware that their reality will one day include the experience of being discriminated against solely for the way they appear. It's an uneasy truth that I've not wanted to address, because who wants to think of anyone hurting their children?

And so I muddled through. Tomorrow, next week, next month — that's when I'll talk to them.

Then Alton Sterling was killed. Five gunshot wounds to the chest and back from a pair of Baton Rouge, La., police. Philando Castile the next day in suburban St. Paul, Minn. Five Dallas police officers killed by a sniper two days later as they worked to protect protesters who had gathered to demand justice for the deaths of Sterling and Castile.
Philando Castile (R) was shot and killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minn., on July 6. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, La., a day earlier. Both shootings were recorded on camera phones. (Alton Sterling/Philando Castile/Facebook)

Closer to home, Black Lives Matter was on everyone's mind after the group brought Toronto's Pride parade to a grinding halt, only allowing it to continue after event organizers signed off on a list of demands.

We could continue to tell our children that "we're all the same," "everyone is equal" and that "skin colour doesn't matter." But that won't mean anything when they come home to report that someone called them a n--ger.

The discussion with my 12-year-old daughter was painful but necessary. It opened up the door to a world where ignorance is not bliss and where we must address racism head-on.
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department last week.

Everyone should have this talk, regardless of race.

My children need to hear that the world isn't fair, it can be unjust. They need to know their value, know to confront racism head-on, to ask questions about why someone is expressing hate. They need to learn that they mustn't internalize racism, and that guidance and support is available.

All kids, regardless of race, should be taught about their responsibilities to support an environment of inclusiveness, fairness and equality. White parents are just as responsible for teaching their children about the realities of racism as black parents.

In silence, my daughter took in everything we had to say. There wasn't much of a response, only looks of sadness, resignation and defeat upon realizing that there's a long way to go — it's our job to get our children there.

About the Author

Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Samantha Kemp-Jackson is a Toronto-based parenting writer, blogger, communications professional and mother of four.