I was recently interviewed for Richmond Family Magazine about what it means to raise anti-racist kids. The interview happened to fall right on the heels of a friend’s post on Facebook asking for help in not only finding resources but beginning and continuing conversations around race and discrimination. It reminded me that there is so much work to be done before those conversations can truly be had in an effective and caring way. How does one approach this? After all, race, in particular, has been and remains a taboo subject for so many households, especially for those who identify as white.
What does it mean to raise anti-racist kids?
Anti-racist education begins with parents’ full understanding of their own introspection, healing, and the correction of misinformation that must be addressed before and while incorporating a path to living as an anti-racist family. Many folks might shy away from the very notion of declaring themselves as anti-racist. For them the word may bring to mind negative images of conflict, protest, even anarchy. They may defer to and be more comfortable with the idea of attempting to learn or be exposed to more diverse perspectives, gain some knowledge of black and multicultural history, or simply declare themselves as not racist. While it is absolutely valid to start here, it is only the tip of the iceberg.
Becoming anti-racist and raising anti-racist kids is a fully immersive experience. It starts with understanding your own identity, values, beliefs , and bias. Every single one of us has all of the above, whether we acknowledge certain aspects of them or not. Some we actively fight against, some are so hidden or deeply embedded within the subconscious that our fight or flight receptors refuse to readily expose them, seemingly for our own protection. Anti-racist parenting begins with your own inner journey to discover those aspects of yourself that corroborate with racism. This journey isn’t about shame or guilt- though those feelings may arise. It is about acknowledging what is there, sitting with the discomfort, and being brave enough to continue pulling back the layers.
Once this stage is set, and we can also acknowledge that we may not always have all of the answers, we can begin the process of empowering ourselves with language, resources, and new ways of thinking. The reality (and of course also the great tragedy) is that we are almost all of us caught in the snare of a social structure that has benefitted some over others through racial oppression. This somewhat levels the playing field of who should engage in this work. I have worked with parents from multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, gender identities, political affiliations and so forth. Each one of them came to an understanding that there was so much for themselves to learn, and became activated in doing so for the sake of raising children who might avoid the same pitfalls in racist thought, word, and deed.
Learning to raise kids as anti-racist is certainly an endeavor that can be done on one’s own. However, the parents who I’ve encountered in my Raising Anti-racist Kids Group Coaching Program found that engaging in on-going discussion and being activated through accountability helped them to be highly successful in not only starting difficult conversations, but consistently building an action plan to continue them over the long term. They have been able to create spaces for openness and continuing education around racism and even turned an outward face towards what they can begin to do to impact racism in the systems they encounter outside the home. When we raise children in anti-racism, we have the potential to change the likelihood of racism to thrive in our world.