Parenting While Black And Starting The Conversation On Racism With Your Kids
By Tanya Hayles, ByBlacks.com
PHOTO © amyhilbrand/Twenty20
Jun 4, 2020
This piece is in partnership with ByBlacks.com
Motherhood. It comes with a lot of joys, but a lot of worries.
They sleep through the night for the first time — you wait with bated breath to see their chest rise and fall. What’s that rash? Why won’t they eat? Are they on track to develop physically, emotionally and mentally?
I've fought with my kid to put on a coat and shoes to get out the door on time for school. I've hid veggies (maybe you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to do that) and encouraged showers (seriously, what is up with the fight to shower?). There's wondering what age is too soon for cell phones, how to deal with peer pressure and more. The worrying never ends.
Some of these concerns are universally known and felt. Others, however, are not.
"The stark reality is that racism is alive and well in our country" — this mom is committed to raising the next generation of Canadians, who value and advocate for equality. Read her story here.
Black parents do not have the same checklists for parenthood. From pregnancy, to how we are treated if our babies don’t have our same skin tone — Black parents have issues that others do not have to wonder about. A luxury, that Black moms like me wish they had.
One of the questions that floats around a lot in our online parenting spaces is: have you had the talk yet?
"The talk: the inevitable conversation when racism comes knocking at our door."
The talk: the inevitable conversation when racism comes knocking at our door. It can be in reaction to being called the N-word on the school playground, or after being racially profiled while shopping, walking, driving or any other mundane day-to-day activity. It could be a result of seeing the images, still or moving, that go viral on social media. Sometimes the talk happens proactively, a preventative measure meant to be like armour for our children.
I have an adorable seven-year old, who loves Roblox, basketball and every type of baked good. He’s smart, sensitive and occasionally smelly. He’s tall and very articulate for his age, so he’s often mistaken for being older than he really is. An innocent mistake for now, but as he grows older, he’s going to stop being seen as cute, and start being seen as a threat.
I have opted to shield him from the civil rights uprisings and movements we are seeing across the United States. My son still believes in the tooth fairy, and his biggest worry is more tablet time. I want to preserve his innocence for as long as possible. One day, the reality of the world will be shown to him, and I’ll have to give him the truth of the Earth he will inherit.
CBC Marketplace's Asha Tomlinson wrote about what it's like raising her son, and the hope she has for change to come in the future. Read that piece here.
So how do you even start the conversation about racism with a child? I don't think you have to show your six-year-old Roots after serving them Kraft Dinner, but kids have a strong sense of justice and fairness. If you have more than one child close in age and gave one an extra cookie, you can almost hear the cries of THAT’S NOT FAIR as you read this. The easiest way to start is to say: "There are people who don’t like other people based on what they look like." When they say: "That’s not fair." Your response: "You are absolutely right."
The harder part begins when they ask why.
"Racism isn’t just a Black problem, it’s an everyone problem."
My biggest piece of advice there is to avoid the trap of thinking you have to have an answer. Let them know: “I don’t know, but let’s learn that together." It's a great way to humanize yourself and give yourself some space to learn from other sources. Thankfully others have done the work of helping you guide yourself as a parent through these very tough waters of introducing conversations about racism, prejudice and discrimination.
It’s not easy. It's a discomfort similar to when your kid starts asking about sex — and that's not a conversation that can be ignored because it's uncomfortable. Neither is this one.
Racism isn’t just a Black problem, it’s an everyone problem.
Our kids will go to school together. And when they're older, they'll work together. If we can teach empathy and justice, and make it just as important as math and science, we’ll all be better off. And maybe, just maybe, one day the talk won’t be as inevitable as it’s been and still is today.
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