White Parents need to be Cognizant.

OK, guys.  I know many of your friends pretty well.  And these are the things I know about you:

  1. -I KNOW you don’t want your kids being prejudiced or racist.  In fact, there’s probably nothing that would mortify you more.
  2. -I KNOW you aren’t prejudiced or racist.

And you are probably not talking to your kids about race. I mean beyond the “all people are equal” talk.

That is because we, as white people, are raised to believe that talking about race is rude or maybe even racist.  Our parents whispered the words “Black” or “African-American.”  And they always looked around to see who was sitting near them.  We didn’t want someone to overhear and think we were saying something bad, even though we weren’t saying anything bad.  We were just scared of how it would appear.  So we just don’t say anything.  We shush our kids if they point out someone’s skin color or hair texture.  Most families of color talk about race all the time.  It’s out of necessity that they do and white people don’t really need to that.

But here’s what happens when we don’t talk about race: the kids pick up what society says without any input from us and they internalize it.

Children aren’t immune to the negative images of Black people presented by the media and elsewhere.  In fact, they are probably the most susceptible since they are little learning-sponges.  They absorb all the negative messages and don’t have an adult to counter-balance that with different opinions or facts.  And it comes out.  They say things to me or my kid.

It’s not their fault.  They live in this world.  We cannot stop the messages from reaching their brains.  We can only discuss why an image or idea may be inaccurate.

It’s okay if a kid notices someone’s hair is a different color than theirs.  It’s okay if a kid notices that someone’s gender is different than theirs.  And it’s okay if a kid notices someone’s skin is a different color than theirs.  That’s actually a REALLY good opportunity to probe their thoughts about the subject.  But it’s okay to bring the subject out of the blue, too.

Onyx Contributor:  Caren K.R.
Illustration by: Steve Sack

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