In times like these, we have to learn to be anti-racist.
From the riots in Minneapolis over the murder of George Floyd, to the incidents of voter suppression all over the US, there can be no denying that racism is alive and well in our country. And how could it not be? It was only 66 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional.
Many of the people who were alive during that time, are still alive. The racism they were born into was passed onto their children, who in turn, passed it onto their children.
It is impossible to deny that racism exists in this day and age, when we are all aware that our country was built by slaves. People of color have been treated as second class citizens since (many of them) were forced to come here.
As a white woman, I am aware that I have certain privileges because of the color of my skin. Though I can’t help my melanin, I find it heart breaking that our society treats me better than my peers because of it. So at the end of the day all I can do is acknowledge my privilege, and teach my children to be anti-racist.
When I say anti-racist, I don’t mean we should teach our kids that racism doesn’t exist, or to be ‘colorblind’ to different races. I mean we should educate our children about different races and cultures, and explain to them that even though all people are equal, our society doesn’t always treat them that way.
The best way to do this is to explain that people make mistakes. And countries do too. Building this country on the subjugation of people of color was WRONG. And the only way to grow and heal from that, is to admit that racism is part of our history as a country.
However, it does not have to be our future. We have to explain to our children that having a racist thought does not make you a racist. Racism is a terrible birthright handed down through our families in secret. We see racism everywhere, from the TV shows we watch, to casual conversations with our friends. Having a racist thought once in a while is normal, given the world we live in.
Immediately correcting that thought is the important part. Mentally acknowledging that thoughts like this are wrong trains the brain to stop thinking that way. The only way to truly (eventually) defeat racism is to acknowledge it within ourselves, every time.
Our children need to learn to confront racism when they see it, both within themselves and without. Its human nature to put ourselves in ‘tribes’, and treat other ‘tribes’ with caution. But the coping mechanisms that got us through the Stone Age are no longer relevant or important to our society today.
To make real change in our society we have to mold our children into better people. One of the biggest components of that, is teaching them to respect and value race, heritage, and culture, but understand that none of those things makes anyone inherently better than anyone else.
Raising a child to be anti-racist starts by correcting their own thoughts, and extends to their social settings. That may mean walking away from a stranger who makes an off-putting joke, or confronting a friend who does the same. It may involve you taking your children to socialize with different cultural groups, encouraging them to look for a diverse group of friends, or even forcing them to volunteer to help different socioeconomic groups. The world won’t change unless we start by changing ourselves, and insisting that our children be better than our ancestors.
As a parent, raising a well-rounded human being that understands compassion is our highest calling. If you raise a racist, you have failed. But even if your parents or grandparents were racist, you have full control over yourself, and your own family.
There is no better time than now to exert that power, and raise a new generation of anti-racist, compassionate, self-reflective human beings. It is the most powerful way that we as moms, can create a better world for our children.