We live in Minnesota, about 30 minutes from Minneapolis. In late May of 2020, we inadvertently became the epicenter of a national social justice movement. After the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police department, there were multiple nights of protests and riots. Our news, as with all the major cities it seemed, were filled with images of their cities literally on fire.
Minneapolis and its suburbs went on lockdown. We, like so many Americans around the country, were transfixed on the news channels, social media feeds, and talking to people who were on the ground in these protests. It was impossible to keep it away from the kids, and we tried at first, but soon we found ourselves captivated with purpose. But what can we do? We’re at least a half-hour away from the destruction. Many of our friends were donating their time and money to the rebuilding effort.
To end systemic racism, we need to raise a generation that will put an end to it. It starts at home. There’s that quote, “The most important work you’ll ever do is in the walls of your own home.” So we start there.
Talk About Race
We live in an area that is predominantly white. There are only a handful of kids of color in their school, so these conversations about race won’t happen organically or naturally. I love our neighborhood and our school despite the lack of diversity it offers and I won’t apologize for that, but that adds the responsibility of us having to have hard conversations about race
We were aware of watching the news while they were present. Not to sensationalize the riots but for an opportunity to talk about racism in a more organic way. They were naturally curious and confused, so they would ask a lot of questions. We answered as honestly as we could.
Read Books About Race
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of kids’ books on race. It seemed like the majority of these books were oh, look, you both like firetrucks you are the same and downplaying and ignoring the systemic racism that plagues the country. But I have found a couple to be helpful in starting a larger conversation. I would recommend these ones if you want to talk to your kids about this but just don’t know how to.
Recognize No One Is Color Blind
Teaching your kids that everyone is the same or that we don’t see color here does such a disservice to everyone. The whole point is that we see what color everyone is, yet we still treat everyone the same. Our differences are not meant to be whitewashed and placed in the background, largely ignored. I want to acknowledge our friend’s color and celebrate their culture.
Diversify What They See On The Screen
As I said, we live in an area that’s predominantly white, which puts more responsibility on us to make sure they are seeing diversity on the screen even if they can’t in person. We make sure the shows we are watching, the movies we see, the books we read have diverse and multicultural characters. That meant for me too—I had to make an effort to watch more adult shows with diverse actors and follow black writers on social media.
“Antiracism” is a verb and so we cannot forget the action of it. It is important for your kids to see you challenging racist norms or ideas. If you hear someone saying something racist, or repeating a racist joke, make sure to call them out on it. Our children will feel brave and not feel that helplessness that generations before have felt. I have great hope for the following generation’s ability for inclusiveness.
Author’s note: For more information, I recommend “How to be Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.