TW: In the third paragraph of this post I talk about the unjust murders of a number of Black men, I do not want to cause any emotional distress to anyone but more specifically to Black people or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) as this is a reality for a number of them. If this is something that will upset you, please skip to the 4th paragraph or skip the post altogether.
White privilege and Racism
I want to start by saying that I am by no means an expert, and saying what I’m doing is right and the only way to do things. I am a middle class White female, raising a middle class White male and so I know there is only so much that I can teach my child about Racism when he will never experience it himself.
However, I’m writing this in the hopes that other white parents will find some of what I’m saying useful and start to talk to their own children so that we can start to create change. Change will never happen overnight, but if we can start to educate ourselves and our children then that is a good start.
I will hold my hands up and admit that growing up I was very ignorant. I wasn’t outwardly ‘Racist’, but I was very ignorant to my privilege and was aware of others being Racist but never held them accountable. I was a stupid, and like most teenagers was very focused on my immediate world. I started becoming more aware of Racism and my privilege after the horrific and unjust murders of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Michael Brown just to name a few, but like many white people I had the privilege to forget and move on with my life. Then May of this year, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer.
Like many people my world was rocked, I was horrified and upset and angry. Then I remembered that I had felt these feelings years before, so why was this any different? It shouldn’t have been different, but I think being a mother and hearing his last words were what made me realise that I couldn’t just forget this, his mother and his family would never be able to forget and this is the reality for so many Black families. I sat and looked at Grayson and I was so thankful he would never have to experience such a fear of the world, but what about all the young Black children in the world who were watching this unfold and going “it could be me or someone I love next”. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to forget this time. So I started taking steps to actively educate myself, my family and my son.
The first and most important thing is to educate yourselves, we need to start to educate ourselves before we can educate our children. The resources are out there it’s just a case of looking. I started by looking in depth into White privilege and systematic racism. I looked into how I could use my privilege to be a Black ally, and rather than being a performative ally, how I could really help. I looked at how the UK as a country is not innocent, and all the Racism that we didn’t learn about at school and all the Racism that is still happening now. On our Instagram we have a highlight specifically dedicated to all the different information I have come across, for anyone that might be interested.
I am still learning now, and I will never stop learning but I would rather keep learning than go back to being ignorant. (I briefly wrote about the BLM movement at the beginning of June when I starting to learn, and I’m still learning now.)
Diversify their toys, books and TV.
The first thing I noticed was that none of Grayson’s toys or books featured any Black or BIPOC, Grayson mainly plays with cars and trains so that wasn’t my biggest concern at the time. However, he LOVES books and I was very aware that all of his books were about animals and dinosaurs but none of them included people, or the fact that people won’t always look the same as him. I bought a number of Little People, Big Dreams books for us to read through. I found this was the perfect way to open a dialogue with Grayson about Racism and the fact that Black people are treated so terribly. There are thousands of books out there, but other than the ones I already mentioned, you could also look at All Are Welcome, We All Belong and Antiracist Baby.
If you children aren’t overly into books, there are plenty of toys that encourage diversity – such as dolls, puzzles, matching games and crayons and paints that encourage children to paint people with different skin colours. These are all great ways to start to talk to your children about how people look different.
There aren’t as many TV shows or films with Black leads as I would like, but a few of our favourites include JoJo & GranGran on CBeebies (this is Grayson’s all time favourite) and My World Kitchen on CBeebies also teaches children about different cultures which is great. There’s also shows like Doc McStuffins and Mowton Magic which also have Black Children as the main characters.
Stop the ‘I don’t see colour’ mentality.
By saying “I don’t see colour” or encouraging your children to do the same, while your heart might be in the right place, it doesn’t stop the problem and almost makes light of the struggles that Black people are facing. They aren’t lucky enough to not see colour, so why should we do the same? We should also be celebrating our differences, I want Grayson to know what makes him special, but I also want him to look at someone else and see they are different to him but just as special.
Encourage your children to see that everyone is different, but our differences are beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Like a lot of parents, I initially struggled on how to talk to Grayson about Racism and privilege because I wasn’t sure if he was too young. However, Black children have to become aware of racism from an early age, and so I felt that as a mother I needed to teach Grayson before it was too late. By 2 and a half children will use race to choose their playmates, and I wanted to be sure that this wasn’t Grayson.
I keep the language to a level that I know Grayson can handle. An example of this is when we read his book about Rosa Parks and I explain to him that Rosa was treated unfairly because she was Black and that we should never be nasty to anyone, especially because of the colour of their skin. I also tell Grayson how lucky he is that he is White and that he will live a very privileged life, and my language and teaching him will continue to evolve as he gets older.
These are obviously just a few very very small examples of how I’m trying to teach Grayson about Racism, the privilege he holds and how he can use it for good. There are so many ways that we need to do better and be better, we should use our privilege to help Black and BIPOC rather than carrying in a state of “out of sight out of mind”.
As I said at the start, I’m still learning and trying to do better but if I have missed the mark at any point within this post, please let me know!
I hope that this helps encourage at least one person to start a dialogue with their child/children.