Raising anti-racist children is everyone’s task, and it starts at home. Here’s an invitation — and some useful tips — from one mom to another.
Dear Moms of America,
I’m writing this letter to you because we all play a pivotal role in helping to shape this country’s future. This is a critical moment for us to pause, reflect, and ask ourselves if we are doing our best to raise anti-racist kids.
The beliefs and notions our children learn at home will shape their actions. It will guide how they show up in the future as contributing members of this society. It will influence how they do their work, how they relate to others, and the kinds of businesses they create. They will shape this country, and this country needs to become a safe place for Black people.
You and I have so much in common. I understand the unconditional love you have for your children. I also know the excruciating fear you’ve felt when they’ve been sick. I know these feelings are shared by most mothers. Yet in this country, mothers of Black children have to experience a whole different level of fear.
After I saw the video of the violent killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, I immediately thought of his mother. The way Floyd called for her and we later knew she died two years ago. And that just broke me.
And then I thought about my son. I imagined him as a teenager a few years from now. I saw myself being worried about him taking drugs, drunk driving, and doing all the “usual” irresponsible things one did at that age. And then I imagined how I would feel if Lucas were Black.
That thought enraged me. I know that my fear would be a hundred times deeper. I would not only have to worry about the “usual” things, but I would also have to worry about prejudice, lack of equality, and the police abusing their authority.
I invite you to do the same exercise with your own kids. Imagine how their lives would be in this country if their skin were a different color. Imagine how would you feel as they grow up and become adults.
I know you might feel helpless. You might be wondering, what can you possibly do to create change? Or you might think that there’s nothing for you to do since you are not one of those “white supremacists.” Or you might be an immigrant, like me, and hide under the belief that we’ve also experienced discrimination (which also happens, but that’s a different conversation). But the truth is that we are all playing a role in allowing anti-Black racism to happen — and our kids will play a role too.
As parents, we have at the very least two non-negotiable jobs right now: educate ourselves and educate our children.
There are countless free resources available. You may want to review The New York Times‘ 1619 Project, a multimedia content series that re-examines the legacy of slavery in the United States and its influence in our lives today. You can also share with your family this list of resources (from books and stats to racial justice organizations) by Resmaa Menakem, an expert on conflict and violence.
Children’s books can help you initiate important conversations about social and racial justice. Here is a list of social justice books that you can share with your children. And here is a list of 100 race-conscious things you can say to your child to advance racial justice—from how to talk about white privilege and racism, to examples of explicit, proactive language around race, and how to inspire activism. You can also share these resources with your kid’s schools and teachers.
This is just a tiny start. Removing all our unconscious biases is an ongoing and very humbling process. It requires that we build our resilience.
We owe it to our children and their future to do this work. We owe it to all the Black moms in this country, who have to raise their children in a country that does not see their humanity or treat them with basic human dignity.
It’s time that we embrace the discomfort that may come up when we think about racism in this country. It’s time we feel the pain and anger. Because this is also our fight. And it will be our children’s fight too.
Let’s all join forces and do everything in our power to raise anti-racist children. It starts at home.