By: Alicia Ross
"Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can't just be on people of color to deal with it. It's up to all of us—Black, white, everyone—no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out." - Michelle Obama, May 29th 2020
As a country, America is fighting a global pandemic right now, but we are also combatting a second destructive virus: racism. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and demand systemic change, while others join the fight remotely through donations, petitions, and calling their representatives. In addition to these tangible actions, there is a major push in these online spaces to actively engage in anti-racism through self-education, introspection, learning and un-learning, and having difficult conversations with friends and family members— holding each other accountable for implicit biases, microaggressions, and both overt and covert racism.
Whether your child has a smartphone, sees the news on the home TV, or simply has heard family or friends saying “Black Lives Matter,” “George Floyd,” “Defund the police,” or any of the many other phrases associated with the movement, children of all ages have likely had some level of exposure to the recent nationwide uproar against police brutality and systemic racism. Parents will approach these conversations with diverse degrees of comfort, but they will likely uniformly share the experience of having the conversation at all. In an article entitled “How to talk to your children about protests and racism,” Sandee LaMotte provides a detailed guide. LaMotte divides her advice based on the age of the children, creating separate sections for “Infants and toddlers,” “Preschool and elementary ages,” and “Tweens and teens.” See more below:
Another approach to starting the conversation, or an otherwise useful tool in enhancing it, is this accessible, kid-friendly video explaining systemic racism. The video — written, produced, and animated by Alex Cequea — breaks down complex topics like redlining, implicit bias, hiring discrimination, and institutional racism to demonstrate systemic racism through the use of two fictional cartoon characters, Kevin and Jamal. Watch it with your kids!
While short Youtube videos can be fantastic teaching tools, there are also plenty of full-length movies that discuss race issues and have great messages of activism. This Women’s Day article (https://www.womansday.com/life/entertainment/g32745225/movies-about-race-racism-kids/) lists 14 child-friendly movies to “help build a conversation around race and racism.” Many of the films portray children facing and overcoming racism and adversity such as Ruby Bridges, Queen of Katwe, and Akellah and the Bee while others may spark discussions around the importance of representation, like The Princess and the Frog, which tells the story of Tiana, Disney’s first black princess.
There are also many great books to borrow, rent, or buy for your children with themes of racism, police brutality, and Black Lives Matter. This list from The Children’s Book Review is a wonderful place to start searching. It sorts book recommendations by age of children, including a detailed synopsis as well as multiple links to buy each book. There’s options here for a diverse array of interests and reading levels, from a graphic novel for 6-9-year-olds called New Kid to more advanced selections such as The Hate U Give and Dear Martin. Check it out: https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/weblog/2020/05/black-lives-matter-book-list-for-kids-and-teens.html
Whether through dinner-table discussions, thought-provoking videos and movies, or educational books, we hope this post helps you get the ball rolling with discussing Black Lives Matter, race issues in America, and police brutality with your child[ren]. In the modern age of information, videos, comments, and detailed, easily-digestible infographics likely flood your kids social media — I know they definitely dominate myfeed lately — and it is increasingly necessary to take the conversation offline as well. Pick a movie, a book, a video, an article, etc. and extend the dialogue into your home. It is never too early (or too late) to discuss race with your child.