As a Latina mom who was born and raised in the United States and is now raising children in the same racism-plagued country, my eyes are open. They haven’t always been, at least not completely, though something was always there in the back of my mind or perhaps my heart. Now though, it’s hard to ignore. It’s hard to ignore the struggles of Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous people in this country, but it’s also hard to know where to start.
My suggestion? Start with you what you don’t know. Now, during Black History Month, we all have the perfect opportunity to dig in and inform ourselves about the Black history that we weren’t taught in school—Black history that many of our children still aren’t being taught in school. We live in an age in which every bit of information we could want is literally at our fingertips, and there’s no excuse for not informing ourselves on the issues that matter, so that we can raise our kids to be mindful, sensitive, empathic and engaged human beings. It may be cliché, but we should all know better now and we need to do better.
For some of us, the only change we will be able to incite in this world, may be through our own families, but we should never forget that our work as parents is good, important work. We are shaping the next generation of adults and we have the power to slowly build a better world through what we teach our children. It’s time we feel empowered by what we know as parents and the important opportunities we have with our children. Just like many of us insist on making informed decisions when it comes to the food we feed them, their health and what schools they go to, we have the power and the ability to make sure they live a life of kindness and respect toward all people.
Beyond that, those of us who are raising Afro-Latinx or multi-cultural children owe it to them to teach them about both the struggles and triumphs of the people they are descended from. It is our responsibility. Many Latinx people have African ancestors particularly those of Caribbean Latinx origin, but there are Afro-Latinx people in and from Central and South America as well. That melanin doesn’t come from nowhere, and it’s more important now than possibly ever before for all of us to learn, accept and love our Black roots, especially since colorism is still so prevalent in Latinx communities. As parents, informing ourselves and embracing our Black ancestry will help us model those very same things for our children to internalize.
So whether you are a Latina mom hoping to raise anti-racist children, you’re an Afro-Latina wanting to know more about your roots so that you can teach your kids or you’re raising Afro-Latinx or mixed kids and want to help them embrace who they are, teaching them about the incredible contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans and Afro-Latinx individuals, is one way you can start helping them internalize the idea of racial equality right now. And while we want to focus on the positive and always teach our children at age- and developmentally appropriate levels, we also should never sugar-coat the facts. In order for us to do that though, we must first educate ourselves.
As for me and mine, well my eight- and five-year-olds know how Black people came to America and how they were treated, they know about segregation and the violence and hurt that Black people have historically suffered through in America and how that has resurfaced in their own lifetimes. They know that people hurt people and hate people because of the color of their skin and they know that many people in America simply fear what they don’t know and that others are content to remain complicit. They also know that their deep brown complexions are part of what makes them beautiful, but that it’s also something that people will judge them unfairly by. Even now, at their young ages, they know that they will likely have to work harder and be smarter than the next guy, just like many of the historic Black figures that we celebrate during Black History Month. But just like those historic figures, they also know that their skin color doesn’t have to stop them from doing incredible things.
So as we round out this Black History Month, lets pick up a history book by a Black author or read a memoir about the Black experience or perhaps listen to a podcast about the skewed Black history that’s been taught in America for generations, or literally anything else you’ve been curious about: find out about it from a Black voice. We have so much power as moms, let’s unite and use it to create a better future for Black and brown children. Our experiences overlap so much, and we should be using them hand-in-hand.
For more on helping your kids learn about Black history, check out our roundup of Black History Month resources for kids.