I was sitting at my kitchen table, mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed. I noticed a post that had been shared by two of my mom friends, both of whom are women of color, and it instantly jolted me out of my mindlessness.
Within the first lines of this post, a mother shared these gut-wrenching words:
“My 2nd grader got called the n-word on the bus today. By a 1st grader. Let that sink in for a second.”
She then described having to talk about this ugly incident with her son. This was not the first time she had to have such conversations with him.
A beautiful photo of her son accompanied her words. He had dark brown skin and was playing on a sandy beach in a comfy sweatshirt and athletic pants. I could easily imagine my eight-year-old, white son wearing similar clothes and playing in a similar fashion. But I could NOT easily imagine having the conversations with my son that this mother has had with hers. It broke me.
She went on to request the help of white moms who are raising white children. Moms like me. She implored us to teach our children about racism. To help them identify it and stand against it. The visceral response welling up in me cried out, “YES! I want to raise my kids up this way!” The practical response in me said, “But how?”
There are lots of resources out there to inform and support these efforts (I appreciate the website, Raising Race Conscious Children, for example). With that being said, I also chose to spend some time brainstorming some ideas of my own. This was good for me because that creative process forced me to assume a posture of empathy.
Today I want to share a few ideas for taking steps toward raising racially conscious kids. Please know I am not under the delusion that I’m an expert on the topic. I only share these as a mom who wants to grow in this area and hopes to encourage you to pursue your next steps as well.
- I bought some skin tone crayons for my four-year-old daughter and presented them to her along with some coloring pages featuring lots of everyday kids. When I explained that these crayons were going to make it easier for her to color in the kids because they are all skin colors she eagerly reached for them. But then she hesitated and asked me, “Which skin color is the best?” Wow! I was able to tell her, “They are all the best! Each skin color is beautiful.”
- I was watching The Greatest Showman with my ten-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. My son voiced his confusion during a scene with two characters who were considered misfits due to the color of their skin. “Why did they think they were different from other people, Mom?” he asked. I did my best to tell him about the racism the characters faced. His jaw dropped and I had a segue to talk with both kids about racism that is alive today. I’m on the lookout for more movies and books to share with my kids that could provide a backdrop for more conversations. A couple ideas I came up with are the movie Remember the Titans and the book The Hundred Dresses.
- Lastly, and probably most importantly, I desire to nurture and invest in existing friendships with families who look different from us. This is not about viewing these friends as a “project” or placing an undue burden upon them to remedy our ignorance. This is about sharing life and breaking bread with them. This is about knowing that any cultural differences will most likely come out as friendships grow. When they do, I can be mindful that my kids are watching me and learning from me. Will they see me ready to listen to our friends’ stories with sincerity? I hope so. Will they see me shying away uncomfortably if a friend entrusts us with a story of racial prejudice they’ve encountered? I truly hope not.
We all learn and grow better together!