Our children may not be fully aware of the scale of things that are happening in the world currently, but they are hearing murmurings. I live in the UK and hear that this is a US issue from a lot of people, but it isn’t. It is a deep rooted fundamental issue that affects all of us. I am of the opinion that the future generations need to be better than the current one. Now is the time to turn the tide. So here are my thoughts on how we navigate this issue with our children:
- Educate yourselves properly. We cannot be teaching children about race issues and prejudice without a full understanding of it ourselves. We have to want to be better, and put the work in to be better and not just put in lip service. We have to be prepared to answer the difficult questions our children will come back to us with. The mainstream media isn’t the place for this, it will require reading books, searching the archives and most importantly talking to real people about their experiences. There is more than one side to every story.
- Expose your children to differences as early as possible. When my daughter started primary school one of her classmates asked her if she was ill. She was perplexed by the question and he explained to her that he didn’t understand why her skin was brown all the time, so he thought she was ill. An innocent search for an explanation in his 5 year old mind because he had never had the conversation of differences with an adult at that point. Take responsibilities and have conversations with your children as early as possible.
- Ensure the books/toys you buy are representative of the community in which your children live. How many books or dolls do your children own that are of different races?
- Advocate for all children. There are flaws in our educational system which mean that black children will often be side-lined or not encouraged to pursue their dreams. This is openly spoken about in staff rooms etc and many black people are too afraid to speak out or stand up for fear of losing their jobs. I remember being at college and saying I wanted to be a pharmacist and my then Math teacher said to me “Oh, how about maybe a nurse”. The implication was that I wasn’t clever enough to become a pharmacist. I saw her on a train a few years later and took great pride in telling her how well I was doing at university. If you hear anyone talking down someone’s potential because of the colour of their skin, speak up and speak out.
- Teach them that it is ok to question things, to look out for representation, to write letters on behalf of their friends when they see things that aren’t fair.
It is not enough to be not racist, not speaking out about injustices should weight heavily on your mind whether that is racial or anything else. Now is the time, how are you going to change today?