Like most parents I want my children to grow into kind and compassionate adults. But 2020 opened my eyes (along with the eyes of countless other Americans) to the hard fact that if my children are going to learn to be truly kind and compassionate, they must also learn to be anti-racist.
In short, being anti-racist really means making the choice every day to think about and advocate for equality. To be clear, I don’t feel like I have any authority to write about this. I’m just an introverted white person who has led a somewhat boring (and I am now realizing, quite privileged) life. But I guess that’s the whole point of trying to become anti-racist. It’s that I do have a voice. In fact, as a white person with a large circle of white friends and acquaintances, and as a mother of three white children, my voice is powerful.
When George Floyd was killed on May 25, I remember being saddened and angered. I thought about some of the other black names I knew like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice who had lost their lives due to racism.
And then I went back to my life.
But as the days stretched on, I started to read more about racial inequalities and began to learn, with growing horror, my place in the system. Then, I watched the movie 13th on Netflix and by June I was part of what has become known as “The Great White Awakening.” It devastated and embarrassed me to realize that my silence and inaction, and let’s be real – ignorance – had contributed to a racist and unequal society.
On June 2nd, I made a sign on a piece of cardboard that said “break your silence” and I masked up with my 7 year old. We had spoken about George Floyd and had discussed that the peaceful protest we were attending was to show solidarity with our friends of all colors in an effort to raise awareness and spark change. I was tired of being quiet, and I didn’t want my son to grow up in ignorance the way I was feeling I had. Standing (socially distanced) with hundreds of other locals of all colors and feeling the collective anger and frustration and pleading hope was a powerful experience and one I’m so glad I shared with my son.
That’s the real lesson I want to impart on my children. They have strong voices and can make a difference. They should actively think about and speak about racial injustice and work toward equality. Nelson Mandela summed up my goals as an anti-racist parent perfectly when he said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Activities to Spark Conversations About Race and Anti-Racism
- Have simple conversations with your children on a regular basis. Explain that different people have different skin colors just as they have different eye and hair colors. You could get “sciency” about melanin or just keep it simple and celebrate the rainbow of skin colors in our world.
- Draw pictures of people with these crayons and talk about how each of them are similar and different and beautiful.
- Watch this clip from an episode of Sesame Street. It teaches kids to name the color of their skin and to wear it proudly.
- Watch Peter H. Reynolds (one of my favorite contemporary children’s authors) read aloud his book Say Something.
- Read How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids from the writers at Common Sense Media. It covers everything from diversifying your bookshelf to talking about hate speech and harassment online.
About the Author
Carrie Thomas is a mother of 3 (Hailey 2, Caleb 4, and Jackson 7) and has been a CECPTA blue and yellow group member for almost 2 years. She moved to Carrollton from New Jersey in the winter of 2018 when her husband accepted a job at UTD. She is a middle school English teacher in Carrollton and loves spending time with her family, reading dystopian YA novels, and unwinding with a glass of wine and one of the well-written Netflix shows.