Right now in the United States, there is a lot of talk about how divided we are as a people. Politics right now makes it feel like it’s almost impossible to find common ground with those who are different from us. But the reality is that we have a lot of power in raising our kids to determine how the future turns out. Last summer, Procter & Gamble dropped a new ad as part of my My Black in Beautiful campaign called “The Talk.”
It’s an unflinching look at the conversation that many parents have to have with their children, particularly black and African American families. Lots of Latino families have to breach these conversations as well, since we are similarly the target of police brutality and profiling and racial slurs and epithets from a young age. But I think that to really change things moving froward and bring our country together in the future to fight against things like racism, sexism, and homophobia, we ALL need to have “The talk” with our kids, regardless of whether or not we are black, white, straight, male or female.
One of the most dangerous things that keeps these cycles going is the feeling that we shouldn’t talk to our kids about them, or that we should try to shield them from the realities of biased society. Unfortunately. black and brown children never have the choice of whether or not to confront racism. There is inevitably a point of reckoning that happens in every young black or brown person’s life where they are called a racial epithet or treated differently because they are “other.” The way that we can avoid these types of things happening is by being as open and honest about all the “isms” with kids on both sides of the equation. White kids needs to know about racism, how it’s existed through centuries and the effects that it has probably had on their classmates and peers.
To build empathy and understanding, white children need to be exposed to the stories and experiences of black, brown, and indigenous children and learn the painful past of colonialism and imperialism. To do that, our classrooms and playrooms need to be more integrated. There are of course much larger structural forces behind the segregation of our school systems that I can’t even get in to in this one post, but something that can be done immediately is to make sure that your children experience different neighborhoods and communities. Travel with your children, make sure they’re not only experiencing communities that you have deemed “safe” because everyone looks the same. Cultural and racial diversity is so important for children to be exposed to.
Yeah, it might be uncomfortable, but that’s the point. White people need to pay less attention to ensuring comfort for themselves and expend more energy on trying to understand the discomfort and pain of others. Encouraging this type of empathy and understanding among our children will help them carry these skills forward as they grow into adults who can hopefully identify and see past their own bias when it comes to making new friends, choosing life partners, and growing their groups of colleagues.
There are lots of ways to talk to your kids about race, and one way is to just bring up news that you know your kids have either heard about or will see on social media. There are also certain pop culture moments (hi Black Panther!) that lend themselves to opening up conversations about representation and race. Whatever way you decide to seize the opportunity, just make sure that you do!