2020 has the potential to be a watershed moment for advancing the long-overdue, equal treatment of the BIPOC community. As a White person, I've been listening, learning, making space for others and having sometimes difficult but necessary conversations with my family members.
If you're in the same boat and wondering how to discuss race and the impacts of racism in an age-appropriate way, here are are five suggestions to get you started.
1. Take stock first
Ask yourself the hard questions. How do you navigate race? Does your family discuss it? What images does your child see? What conversations do they hear from you? Take Harvard University's "Implicit Bias" test to examine your own beliefs and, depending on the results, read Time Magazine's article by Belinda Luscombe on how to work to overcome implicit bias.
2. Include stories of triumph
Be sure to share stories of Black joy and invention, like “Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions,” by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate, which is about the black engineer behind the Super Soaker water gun. Or even just stories of BIPOC children doing normal child things like playing baseball and getting ice cream. It's important to have stories in your home library that aren't all about overcoming adversity or being saved by white people.
3. Talk about what's happening
Kids know more than we give them credit for and not talking about what's happening could give kids the wrong idea. To support these conversations, check out the highly-rated “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” which is a book for children aged 4-8 about a police shooting. Written by Marietta Collins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Morehouse School of Medicine, the book follows two families - one Black and one White - as they discuss a police shooting.
4. Model the way
Actions speak louder than words. “The best advice I can give parents is to be models for the attitudes, behavior and values that they wish to see in their children,” said Nia Heard-Garris, M.D. "It is not enough to talk about racism, you must strive to be anti-racist and fight against racist policies and practices,”
If you have the privilege, “make space, speak up or amplify issues of inequity and injustice.” Children see everything.
From his website, New York Times Bestselling Author Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.
5. Celebrate differences
Children see differences in the people around them; their classmates, neighbours and friends. Having purposeful conversations about these differences, through stories such as “Hair Love,” by Matthew A. Cherry, offer excellent opportunities to celebrate how many different kinds of people there are in the world. Variety is the spice of life!
Hair Love was even made into an Oscar-winning short film you can watch with your family here.