Welcome to St. Paul’s Children and Youth Online Formation Program, the June 12th edition!
(Check back every Friday for more material)
“How do I teach my kids to be anti-racist when I’m still learning myself?” – Anonymous, Books For Littles Facebook Group (click the link to go to the Facebook Group)
It’s normal to get flustered when our children talk about race. But if we let nervousness keep us silent and still, our fear becomes a weapon. Growing up, I was told that discrimination would magically disappear if we stop acknowledging racial difference. All people are the same. Skin color doesn’t matter. Only bad people are racist. If we are all nice and well-behaved, racism will go away. This is the fallacy of colorblind ideology. It’s a tool to keep us complicit in white supremacy. Don’t be a tool. We must talk about race with young kids. Racism thrives in silence.
When we refuse to talk about race at an early age, children absorb our silence as shame. We’re taught that if we have nothing nice to say – say nothing at all. Well – white folks are aggressively silent when it comes to race! Does that mean that being Brown or Black is something to be ashamed of? Kids pick up when we refuse to acknowledge racial difference – and how we treat people of color. Why are we surprised then, to see nice, well-behaved
My White mother who openly talked about race from birth – and how society would perceive and treat me because of my multiracial heritage. She raised me to understand that discrimination against me was not my fault. Violence would happen to me because of my race, my gender, my class but it wasn’t caused by me – it was caused by white supremacy. The Mominator refused to let me internalize the idea that I deserved racism. To do that, she first needed to acknowledge my race and the fact that I would have obstacles in life that white kids didn’t.
We can help our children understand racism – and empower them to work toward racial equality. Raise kids of color to feel proud of their culture and their right to self-advocate. Raise white kids to recognize their duty to stand up against injustice. But first, you’ve gotta acknowledge that racial differences – even though they are an imaginary, human-imagined construct, exist as a real thing in our society, with real-life impact on real-life people.
Start by telling our kids that yes - we do see skin color and racial identities. For folks who were never given space to talk about racism and discrimination as kids (or even racial diversity), it's scary to start. We don't want to say the wrong thing and mess it up. No worries, we are going to start very gently with non-controversial, easygoing books that just show kids that racial diversity exists. In future collections, we'll get into more emotionally loaded topics - like racial discrimination, racial privilege, colorism, and the subtle tools that uphold white supremacy, such as white fragility and respectability politics.
The author of this article is re-addressing a letter that she received in 2014-- in light of current events including the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests. She breaks it down by age group-- from toddlers (who DO notice race and can start to make their own conclusions) through teens, and gives sample conversations.
In case you missed it, this is the last week we'll be using this video, when Jesus answers the crowd's question about who the "neighbor" really is.
Video of a book read by Reverend Brittany: God's Dream
Lesson for Big Kids and Families: [email protected]