One way to debunk the “but what can we do?” mentality

Before I started this blog, I was in a near constant state of despondence. I’d watch or read the news about another unjust death of a black person in this country and become overcome with sadness, guilt and hopelessness. So many conversations I had with friends and family about systemic racism ended with a heavily sighed, “but what can we do?”

I repeated this catch phrase over and over again, feeling genuinely sad about the fallacy of a “post-racial” America and believing the collective “we” could do nothing to eradicate racism. But then something clicked (or snapped) and I realized I was hiding behind the “we” in that statement. I was allowing “but what can WE do” to take away my power. And really, I was letting myself off the hook because there are many things I can do as an individual and a parent to fight against systemic racism.

In previous posts, I have shared the various actions I’m exploring in my quest to be a better ally to the racial justice movement as well as a better parent. I’ve discussed arm chair activism and direct conversations about race with my toddler. But this week, I want to offer a more concrete response to the question, “but what can we do?” Take the workshop, “Raising Race Conscious Children.” My husband and I completed the course last week.

I have referenced the website, Raising Race Conscious Children before. The author, Sachi Feris, models how she communicates race to her young child and offers a lot of resources for parents wanting to speak to their children about race in an open manner. Sachi and her partner, Lori Taliaferro, have conducted the “Raising Race Conscious Children” workshop to many parent and school groups in the Tri-state area but just recently began to offer this workshop in a webinar format. Honestly y’all, it’s a great place to start. The online format is admittedly challenging because they present a lot of information quickly and I found myself wishing there was more time to process each piece. But my husband and I had great dialogue during and after the workshop about our parenting styles. We role played different strategies such as naming and narrating race and gave each other feedback. The webinar provided space for my husband and me to explore how we speak to our children about race and practice some language for the future.

Let me keep it real for a minute. About an hour before the webinar was scheduled to start, my husband and I got into an argument. We had a crappy end to the day with an epic toddler meltdown that started with escorting him crying (and kicking) off of a playground and ended with…well, it never ended until he finally passed out in a crumpled pile in his bed. As we argued, my husband stated,“ taking this webinar is just about the last thing I want to do right now.” And I had to admit that I felt the same way. We tuned in anyway. During the webinar one of the first questions posed to the group was how often you talk to your kids about race. One participant wrote, “we are a black family so we have to talk about race all the time.” My husband and I locked eyes. Only moments before we had considered opting out of the webinar because we were tired and in a bad mood. People of color don’t get to opt out. We were forced in that moment to yet again confront our white privilege.

I share that vignette to admit talking about race is not always comfortable nor convenient in my family, but we’re making it a priority. I no longer want to hide behind the “but what can we do?” sentiment. I want to take action. I want my husband to take action. I want my kids to someday take action. Do I believe we are we going to extinguish racism single-handedly? Of course not. But I want to acknowledge and challenge the system. We are striving to be better parents and taking this workshop provided some tools to aide us in our pursuit of that goal.

The next webinar will take place in October, exact date TBD. I encourage any and all of you parents who have felt the grip of hopelessness, who have pondered “but what can we do?” to take the 90 minutes out of your day and $40 out of your pocket and register. Because there is something you can do. And this is just one of them. I will continue to share other opportunities for action as I find them. Go forth and strive, my friends.


2 thoughts on “One way to debunk the “but what can we do?” mentality

  1. jes says:

    Thanks for this information. I think it’s important that we, as individuals, take personal responsibility and find ways to engage directly with those issues that are important to us. I will definitely look into this webinar!


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