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Our children are our nation’s future. What we teach our children will stick with them for their entire lives (yes, stating the obvious). Our duty as parents is to teach our children that systemic racism is not acceptable.
We as a country can do better. Often quick to denounce human and civil rights violations around the world, our country has failed egregiously to clean up its own act. Fighting for equality starts from the top.
It all starts with parenting.
Moms (and dads), we need to model kindness and respect towards others. Our children are sponges and soak up how we treat others from an early age.
We might think our children are not listening or are not affected by our actions, but trust me, they are!
How do we start? Sometimes we might not be aware of how others are being treated unfairly, so we need to start by listening.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Do a ‘gut check’ — ask yourself how would you feel if you were being treated similarly?
This might sound trite, but one thing that comes to mind is the privilege afforded to me when standing in line at a counter. When a person of color who has obviously been waiting longer than me is overlooked, I have often had the experience where I am asked by the store employee, ‘How can I help you?’
I refuse to accept this ‘invisible’ treatment of persons of color–it is grossly unfair. When this happens, I speak up and tell the store employee to serve them first. I silently think that the person arriving before me should automatically receive service first.
The fleeting smile and gratitude expressed through the eyes of the person who previously was ‘invisible’ is indescribable. Validating someone’s presence and worth by standing up for them is something we need to teach our children.
Our children need to learn that as an ally, it is our duty to speak up.
As parents, we teach our children valuable life lessons when they witness us in action as allies to those who are different from us.
Daycare providers and teachers, many of you are surrogate parents to our children 6-8 hours a day while school is in session. So, we are counting on you as well to model empathy and tolerance to our children, our future.
[Note: I can only imagine how tough it has been for educators the past few months teaching virtually through Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic!]
Educators, you are in a unique position of power where you can give each student the opportunity to express his or her unique voice. For ideas on how to be more equitable in the classroom, see “Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Equity and Engagement.” (Cox, 2020). Another resource is Montgomery County (Maryland) Public School’s Bullying, Harassment, or Intimation web page.
Moms, we must teach our children how to be comfortable speaking up as allies when their classmates are discriminated against and bullied. They need to understand that sitting on the sidelines silently is not acceptable. Intervention comes in different ways–talk to your children about how they can stand up as allies.
My younger high school-aged son has repeatedly stood up for classmates subjected to racial slurs and reported disturbing comments and graffiti to school authorities. Moms, it is imperative that we teach our children to have zero-tolerance for racism.
What exactly do we need to teach children?
Well, to start, the core lesson is to be kind & respectful to others.
When we model kindness and respect towards others, we are collectively parenting our nation’s future.
Our children are our future.
As Whitney Houston once sang in Greatest Love of All:
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
This is just the start of what needs to be an extensive conversation, collectively. The next step might be educating oneself on microaggressions whether intentional or unintentional. I don’t have all of the answers but as a parent, I do recognize that only through investing in our future, that is, all of our children, can we strive to make this country a better place.
Update: Since the original publication of this post, the Chicks released their moving song and video, March, March. This video deeply moved me and sadly hits home. My colleague’s son, Osaze Osagie, shot during a mental health check, is one of many listed in rapid succession towards the end of the video. The song tempo and timing of the list drive home the gravity of what’s happening.
Here are a few books and websites to help you navigate this sensitive topic. What books or other resources do you recommend?
- Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin