At the end of every day, we practice gratitude with our children. Each of us names something we are thankful for that either happened that day or in general. The other night as I was tucking my five-year-old into bed, I asked him like I do every night what he was grateful for.
“I’m grateful that Black Lives Matter and that we fight for justice,” he replied sleepily. I paused, somewhat surprised as we hadn’t discussed race or Black Lives Matter that day. Should I leave the comment alone or dive in a bit? I chose the latter.
“I love that you are thinking about that, honey,” I responded. “Black lives do matter, and it’s unfair that Black and brown people are treated differently just because of the color of their skin. People, including us, fight for justice because not everyone believes Black Lives Matter and we don’t think that’s fair. ” He nodded and let out a big yawn, so I decided to end the conversation there.
The next night when I asked my son what he was thankful for, he replied, “I’m thankful that Black Lives Matter to our family.” It was a subtle change from the night before, but it indicated to me that he had heard the piece about how not everyone believed Black Lives Matter and he valued that in our family we did. It was a reminder of how much kids listen.
Children absorb the world around them, whether the information is presented by me as a parent or by their friends or the media. They are constantly listening and learning, so what we say as parents is important. And what we don’t say as parents can leave just as big of an impression.
This series of night-time conversations happened before Jordan Edwards was killed by police. It happened before a Black woman in my Atlanta neighborhood was accosted by a white neighbor and told she didn’t belong here because she was Black. It happened before the video surfaced of a 14-year-old Black child being placed in a choke hold by a School Resource Officer in Pittsburgh.
For the past few days, I’ve been listening to my Black and brown friends and neighbors share their fears for themselves, their partners, their family members and mostly for their children. I’ve listened to my friends describe the gut-wrenching conversations they must have with their Black and brown children about personal safety and encounters with police. There is a book, for goodness sake, to help navigate these talks. I’m at once happy and horrified that this resource is available.
I am white, my husband is white, my children are white. I am not a perfect ally nor do I pretend to have all the answers on how to dismantle white supremacy. I do not believe my children fully grasp what Black Lives Matter means as a statement or a movement. How could they at ages 5 and 2?
But they see the Black Lives Matter sign in our window and our yard; they see me wearing my Black Lives Matter pin; they see me leaving to attend meetings and protests; they hear me and my husband discuss issues of racial injustice in our community. I try to be as open and honest with both my kids about why it’s important to fight for racial justice, from a historical and a present day perspective. And of course, we name race openly and often so our kids have a framework from which to build their understanding of how racism operates in our society.
This is the absolute baseline of what I can and should be doing as a white parent and person. Black children are dying. This is not a game. My children’s innocence is not an excuse to shield them from the realities of what’s happening in our country or in our neighborhood.
EmbraceRace, one of my go-to resources for raising race conscious children, just published a great piece entitled, Your 5-year-old is already racially biased. Here’s what you can do about it. I really appreciated the reminder that parenting is a marathon not a sprint, so even when a conversation with my children about race or racism doesn’t go perfectly, or they don’t seem to grasp what I’m saying, there will always be tomorrow. But the most important thing is to have these discussions. To keep circling back. To raise better white children.
I’m gutted that another Black child has died. I’m gutted that another Black child has been brutalized in his school. I’m gutted that my Black friends and neighbors are hurting. But until I am willing to act on the strong emotions that surface at the latest injustice, I remain part of the problem and not the solution. I refuse to set that example for my children.
For examples of actions you can take in your family and as an individual check out Raising Race Conscious Children, Raising an Advocate, We Stories, EmbraceRace, Safety Pin Box, My Reflection Matters, Showing up for Racial Justice Families. And that’s truly just a tip of the iceburg. The resources are out there.
Please, my fellow white parents, let’s get to work. Our discomfort, our fear of getting it wrong or whatever other road blocks that keep us paralyzed from action is beyond secondary to the fact that Black and brown children are dying.
Black Lives Matter.
4 thoughts on “My white children know Black Lives Matter. Do yours?”
Hi. I couldn’t agree more. I actually have started an even more ambitious/hopeful website which, I believe, could help our country find racial peace. The basic premise is that there are many, very good people in this land who understand how important racial peace is to our future—our children’s future in particular.
Far. far more people than believe otherwise.
I am having a hard time attracting a following, but I’m not discouraged.
I’ve been mainly using twitter, for better or for worse.
This is a link to my website: http://www.personalintegrationpatch.com
Keep up the good work here. It’s so important;-}
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi there! Thanks for commenting. I went to your website, but I must admit I’m a little confused as to the premise of the patch. It seems similar to the safety pin movement. My concern with outward displays of solidarity like a patch or a safety pin is that it’s not necessarily attached with meaningful action nor accountability. What are you thoughts on this? Happy to have connected!
Ha! I thought I posted a two hundred word reply here earlier today. There was an issue with my login because I had originally started my website on workdpressdotcom, but migrated over to wordpressdotorg for several technical reasons involving my host site. Anyway, I straightened out the login problem and thought the post was sent. Doesn’t look like it however. Tried to find a copy of it somewhere, but no dice;-} I’ll try again shortly.
Shannon, thanks for your attention. I’m sure you’re very busy.
The Patch is designed to allow that large, silent majority of people—those people who don’t normally march in protests or carry signs or shout aloud—to quietly share their own private conviction that all races are equal and also their wish for their family to be allowed to live in a land of racial peace. The movement, if you wanted to call it that, will require courage but will also be almost silent. The intention being that the more people who wear them (patches), the more light and eyes will be focused on supremacists and on those who act out their racial hate. Supremacy and racism tends to wilt under bright lights and multiple witnesses.
I think we both must trust that a large majority of decent people do exist out there. I just want to provide an opportunity for them, by putting on a patch, to know how many others, like them, there are, and to give them a chance stand together peacefully and make their convictions known without having to resort to violence.
Passive marginalizing racism and hate all the way to extinction, can actually work, but it it will take a massive number of decent people to make it happen.
I realize that this is all a real long-shot, populist type endeavour that probably depends too much on capturing people’s imaginations. But I also trust that we have the decent people in our population for the idea to have a good chance.
It’s possible that some people could put on a patch duplicitously, but I don’t see we have a choice. In fact, the more people wearing patches the better. Maybe we could even change some minds, once they’re completely surrounded;-}
I hope so.
In any case I intend to keep trying to make this happen. One patch at a time if necessary.
I hope that you keep doing what you do too, Shannon. It’s very important.
Maybe our separate approaches will come together one day;-}
(I really did write a much clearer explanation earlier. Sorry that I fumbled it away)