Anti-Racist Parenting – Raising Anti-Racist Kids
Raising anti-racist kids is bringing up children to be accepting of others. As a black woman living in the UK, I have grown up in a world where I have continuously been made to feel as though I have to hide and change who I am in order to fit in. Because of this, I’ve straightened my hair, not worn hairstyles that I love, changed the way I talk, the foods I take to work, the way I dress, the list goes on. To be fair, my experience of systemic racism is really worth it’s own post. I may write about it one day when I find the words and gather my feelings on it.
My Experiences as a Child
Firstly, it was what I saw on TV, most of the girls didn’t look like me. When I found the few shows and movies that had girls that looked like me, I would love them and watch them over and over soaking them up. Books hardly had girls like me and if they did, they weren’t at school or in the library, they were just the ones I had at home, again showing me that those books were different.
Secondly, the situations that led me to begin to really hide my culture and who I am started to arise around the age of 9. Those are the earliest situations I can remember anyway. These were based on comments made by my white friends and classmates. Not because they were saying anything that was intended to be cruel but they definitely made me feel different, as though I wasn’t the same. It was the look on their faces when I discussed the foods I ate on a Sunday, or the conversations about my hair texture or styles. They weren’t kind or welcoming comments or looks of awe and wonder, it was often “Ugh, whats that?” or “Why do you put that in your hair?” Their faces a look of disgust.
I however, didn’t have any choice but to grow up to be accepting of other cultures. Being a minority, I had to be. As a result, it’s made me the woman I am today and I know it’s had a positive impact in my life. The people I meet, the cultures I’m introduced to, the countries I travel to and how accepting I am of differences in people are down to me being accepting of other cultures.
How Did This Effect Me?
The situations I experienced as a child however, were the beginning of a lifetime of hiding who I really am from the outside world. I can only remember my experiences from around the age of 9. However, based on my 6 year old daughter, and the experiences she’s already had at school and nursery, I can believe it was sooner. I also have conversations with black friends about their children and situations at school all the time. Again, I can only guess I started to feel this way sooner but I just didn’t understand before then or I simply don’t remember.
We are currently in a world where more people are understanding the systemic racism that black people experience every day. I wonder, if the children that I had spent so much time around growing up, were more aware of my culture, would have been more accepting of me and not made me feel so different. If they saw more people like me on the TV shown in a good light, would they have been more accepting? If they were brought up to be anti-racist kids, would I have felt different?
Change Is Needed
I can’t put my feelings today only down to people however. It was also down to the media and a variety of other situations but I feel that in order to change how black people are seen moving forward, is for more people make a conscious effort to raise anti-racist kids so that maybe my grandchildren will have a different experience growing up to that of mine and my children.
So, what can you do to raise children who see black people as equals?
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How to Raise Anti-Racist Kids?
Be the Example
Children learn so much from their parents so before anything, you have to be the example. Do your research and educate yourself on how to be anti-racist. In all of my points below, refer back to this point and ask yourself if you are doing the same things you expect your children to do because, if you aren’t it won’t have the same effect. There are so many books out there where you are able to understand systemic racism and white privilege. Check out these books as a starting point.
Talk About Black People
Discussing other cultures is educating your children. If you don’t spend a lot of time around black people, children are often left with what they see in the media and what they hear from others. A lot of the time this isn’t a true reflection on black people and therefore children are often left with negative representations of black people. How you talk about black people makes a difference so don’t only talk about black people when there is a negative story about a black person in the news. Talk about black people and their culture in a positive light. These conversations should be ongoing and helpful, allowing your children to feel comfortable having these conversations.
Talk About Racism
Teach your children that firstly, racism is never OK. Talk about how black people have been treated in the past and how they are treated today. Explain that it’s not fair and it’s not OK. Your children should know what you expect of them when it comes to racism. Teach your children to speak up if they hear a racist joke or children being mean because of skin colour. Read books about those who are different so they can understand that we should be accepting of all kinds of differences.
Spend Time With Black People
Do your children have black friends over to play or visit the homes of their black friends? Are your children friends with any black children? Do you have your own black friends over? Are you friends with any black people? If the answer is no, perhaps the first step is to live a more diverse life so you too have the opportunity of opening up your heart to more people.
Make a conscious effort to go to places where there are black people that you and your children can meet. This could be anything from your children attending extra curricular activities that are more diverse. Visit a black church every now and then, you might find you fall in love with the service. Going to adult classes that have a diverse make up. If your children only see black people in the media, it’s not ideal so opening their eyes first hand can make a huge difference.
Do Not Teach Colour Blindness
I am a black woman. My husband and children are black. We are not ashamed of this. It’s a part of who we are. Pretending that you don’t see colour, is almost the same as saying there is something wrong with being black. There is nothing wrong with seeing colour. There is something wrong with pretending you don’t though. Accepting differences is key to being accepting of other cultures.
Experience the Culture
A great way to learn about other cultures is to experience them. Go to African, Caribbean or African American restaurants and experience the foods with your children. Not only will it open up more children to different flavours and cuisines but you might find a new restaurant that you love or dishes you want to try at home. However, an even better way would be to travel to countries with predominantly black people. My Mum is from Barbados and it’s my favourite place in the world. Most people that I know who visit Barbados, go time and time again because it’s a beautiful place with loving people. You have to be open to experiences in order to try new things.
Have a Diverse Book Collection
What do your children’s book collection look like? Do they have many books where the main character is black? There are a lot of books out there to enjoy which have black characters. I don’t mean books only about diversity or racism, I mean books with everyday stories so children can see others in their books. Our children learn a lot through books and seeing black children in books incorporates this into their everyday lives.
Movies and TV Shows
Do you watch many movies or TV shows that have black people as the main characters? If not, include some family movies with black people in your movie nights. Watch family TV shows where the main family is black. There’s a lot of good that can be taught from this. Your children might find a new show they love or a movie to add to their favourites list.
Are Their Toys Diverse?
Children learn through play. Do your children have black and white dolls / figures? My daughter has black baby dolls, white baby dolls, black Barbie dolls and white Barbie dolls. She loves them all and cares for them all equally. She plays with her dolls in a way that represents her thoughts and feelings so having a black and white doll eating lunch together or going to a party together shows how she sees the world. Can your children do the same with their toys?
This is not a one-off change or something to implement and leave be. It’s ongoing so we can all strive for an equal and fair society where black people aren’t treated unfairly because of the colour of their skin. The most important step in raising anti-racist kids is to make sure you are an anti-racist parent. As I said in my first tip, educate yourself so you can be the example and teach your children the best way forward.
Doing the points above individually, isn’t going to make anyone anti-racist. It isn’t going to make anti-racist kids. However combining them will help to shape the thought process on how individuals think about black people. It’s so important to society as a whole to become anti-racist in the home and shaping children’s behaviours.