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6/19/20 blog post

5 tips for raising an anti-racist child

As parents, you aim to raise our children to be good humans. That usually means ensuring your children follow the golden rule “treat others how you want to be treated.” Parents work to reinforce this message and believe this message will teach our children to be non-racist.

The recent events and civil unrest regarding racial injustices illustrate the approach most parents have taken is just not enough. Thus, there has been a call for parents to raise anti-racist children.

why should I teach my child to be antiracist?

Historically, being not racist is like being “colorblind.” This approach focuses on treating individuals as equally as possible to end discrimination. In theory, this seems to be an acceptable approach.

However, the “colorblind” approach is NOT helpful.

  • Being colorblind creates a society that denies negative racial experiences, rejects cultural heritage, and invalidates perspectives of people of color that are unique
  • When race-related problems arise, colorblindness tends to blame individuals for conflicts and shortcomings while ignoring the larger picture, the context. Cultural  differences, stereotypes, and values are important in understanding these conflicts or challenges.
  • The colorblind approach teaches children that race shouldn’t be talked about and make it harder for them to talk to parents about their questions. Silence about race reinforces racism.

The anti-racist approach recognizes that racist beliefs have contributed to systemic barriers in our culture and aims to teach children to actively work against discrimination.

5 tips for raising an anti-racist child

  1. Model the behavior you want to see in your child 
    • Explore your own biases: The first step of this process is reflection on your own biases and how they impact your thoughts and behavior. This step may be uncomfortable but is necessary.
    • Educate yourself: It is okay not to know it all. It is hard to be a role model if you feel very unformed. There are so many books to read, podcasts to listen to, articles to read, and movies to watch. Check out this list for some ideas!
    • Diversify your social networks: It will be hard to convince your child that people of color are “good” when they are only around people who look like them or see you only around people who look like you. Thus, you may need to look at your social group and attempt to increase your exposure to diverse people.
    • Be an advocate: Children and teens understand the general concept that “actions speak louder than words.” Commit to actions.
  2. Have conversations about racism often
    • This should not be just one conversation: It should be a series of discussion that are open and ongoing. These conversations will deepen and become more nuanced as your child gets older.
    • These conversations are crucial: Children tend to fill in the blanks when they have gaps in their understanding. Thus, if parents do not have these conversations, the world will shape your child’s ideas about race. Thus, it is essential that you as a parent are part of this process.
    • Please remember that important information should be given in small doses: While it is important to talk to our children about bad things going on in the world. However, being overwhelmed by these issues can potentially take a toll on your child. Thus, pick one event, one short clip from a protest, a short video from YouTube to use a conversation starter.
      • If your child is experiencing symptoms of being overwhelmed (e.g. sleeping issues, increased anxiety, or a change in behavior) please reach out to your pediatrician or a mental health provider with additional support.
    • For additional tips, see our tips for talking to your child about racism blog 
  3. Seek environments where you child can experience diversity: As mentioned earlier, modeling with actions is just as important as just talking about concerns.  You should seek out experiences to increase your child’s exposure to different cultures. It may take include going to a cultural festival or enrolling your child in a diverse summer camp.
  4. Use media including books and movies: Media can be a powerful way to teach your child to be anti-racist. Children are significantly impacted by media, including books, podcast, video games, movies, online videos, and social media. For some ideas on media resources on race and racism, check out this list.
    • Point out racism and stereotypes in the media: By pointing out when something is racist or discriminatory, you are helping your child develop their critical thinking skills.
    • Diversify the media you introduce: It is important to have specific media addressing racism and race. In addition, it is also important to share stories that highlight people of color that reflect the characteristics and values your children want to have (e.g. kindness, openness, ingenuity).
    • To learn more about how to use media to raise an anti-racist child, please see this website.
  5. Teach your child to be an ally: After you’ve learned to be an ally in support people of color, it is important to integrate these ideas into your conversation and actions with your child.
    • Action can take many forms:  There are several different ways including protesting, signing petitions, organizing, art activism, stepping in, and stepping up when needed. It is also to note that action can also be quieter too, as in active listening to friends, podcasts, community leaders, or activist. Work with your child to discuss these options.
    • Identify real life applications: Talk through scenarios your child/teen might encounter in real life or online. Discuss and model the different approaches to be active. Identify when it when it might be best to just listen, to call someone out, to amplify someone's voice, or to share resources, etc. Role-playing may also be helpful to assist your child in managing some potentially challenging situations.
    • Share your mistakes: You will make mistakes in the process and so will your child. Share these mistakes to reinforce that being anti-racist is a process with some missteps along the way. This allows your child to accept not being perfect or having all the answers.

These are a few steps to teach your child to be anti-racist. This is not an exhaustive list but will allow you to get started in the process of raising an anti-racist child.

It is a long-term process. You will make mistakes. Always remember this work is important as it is aiming to make big changes happen for the future and for your child.

If you want more information, check out the following websites: