Or maybe you haven’t begun and feel a little guilty about that. Could you be frozen in fear, unsure about what to say and how to say it?
Maybe you started but remain worried that your first attempts failed. That you screwed it up and are a loss to know what to do about it.
You’re not exactly sure why. But you get a feeling that you’re missing something that you just can’t put your finger on.
And you can’t help thinking (if your babies are older): Wow. The Sex Talk and The Drugs Talk were easy compared to this!
No wonder. Talking about justice, equality, racism and white supremacy with young kids and teens is difficult work.
These are heavy concepts. They’re challenging to talk about even with (especially with?) other adults!
I’ve had more than a few uncomfortable conversations with family and “friends” that erupted into full-blown arguments.
So, what’s the best way to handle “The Race Talk” with your kids?
It’s all about teaching them to be “Colour Brave.”
Here’s how to do it.
#1. TURN THE MIRROR INWARDS
To teach your kids to become color brave, you need to be this way first.
So, take a hard and honest look at yourself and make the necessary changes.
Analyze the preconceptions you have about race. “Outright reject all racists ideas.”
Some of these are easy to denounce. Like school segregation. Or gardai (police) brutality against the people of colour.
But these are the glaring examples of racism.
To be color brave, you need to get down deep into the “unspoken assumptions” you’ve held your entire life. Start throwing out lots of deep-seated racism that you may not even be consciously aware that you hold on to.
For example, what are the images of people of colour that you already have? (Be totally honest with yourself here. Take a good long look. Maybe you recognize these, but don’t be surprised if you don’t.)
#2. BLACK IS DANGEROUS
One prevailing idea in our Irish society (id go as far as saying around the globe) is the stereotype of Black men as dangerous or criminal.
This is why if you’re in a dark parking lot or walking to your car or the bus stop after dinner or the cinema and see a Black man, you become frightened and cross the street or pick up your speed to escape into your car immediately. Like it’s instinctual for us whites to respond this way.
But really it’s a racial bias. It will require a conscious effort on your part to overcome.
#3. BLACK IS UGLY
When thumbing through magazines or surfing the Web, do your eyes wander to the pages with the White women models? There’s a reason why you see so few Black women fashion models. Companies preferentially choose White women to model their clothes because they lead to more views and higher sales.
Thus, these companies support the prevalent myth that White is more beautiful than Black. If fact, the myth holds that Black is ugly.
#4. BLACK IS UNACCEPTABLE
Death threats had been made against his wife, her partner and their 22-month-old son Jonah, there are other 100’s of cases of abuse as such, not to mention many thousands that go unreported.
You may be in utter disbelief about it thinking surely I’m exaggerating.
Unfortunately, I’m not.
If you honestly think I am, you’re living in denial of reality.
Please don’t get me wrong.
You may be a law-abiding Irish citizen. A “good” person.
But it’s not enough to end systemic racism in Ireland.
To contribute to that objective, you need to eliminate all the unspoken thoughts and feelings you have, those that are commonly accepted by us Irish (and, tragically, by many Blacks about Blacks) as normal, but are actually racist.
To be in a position to truly help your kids overcome these biases (that may just barely register with them at their age just as you may have had a tough time recognizing them in yourself), you need to get beyond being “good” or “not racist.”
We know how to be racist. We know how to pretend to be not racist. Now let’s know how to be antiracist. It’s not enough to promise yourself to double down on your racial biases. To tell yourself “Be color blind.”
This statement is itself a reflection of your racial bias (=racism).
In other words, if your Race Talk is based on emphasizing being color blind — insisting to our kids that we’re all the same, for instance, and must be tolerant of others — you’re continuing the myth of Irish white supremacy.
And, since you’re so laser-focused on becoming color blind, you won’t have the time — or feel you need it — to make the required mental transformation in how you view Blacks. This change is absolutely necessary to overcome racism.
You mustn’t think (like a racist): “She sure is pretty for a Black woman,” or “That Black man turned out to be nice.”
After a lifetime of subconsciously believing otherwise, it will take an effort to change your mindset in these ways. The following steps will help you get closer to that mindset. Then you’ll be in good shape to help your kids do the same.
#5. THE NEW BLACK
There are many things you can do to change how the world appears in front of your eyes. Make it become color brave, too.
#6. IN YOUR HOME
One way to make it easier for yourself to be color brave is to actively search out stories (with pictures) of successful, beautiful and kind African Americans, both historical and contemporary.
After reading them with your kids, and admiring their accomplishments, put these stories and photos in prominent places where you’ll gaze at them walking by.
For instance, place them on your:
- coffee table
- magazine rack
Share these with your children. Look at them often. When you do, you’re helping your brain make the transformation.
#7. THE BEST TIME IS NOW
There is no better time to start teaching your kids about color bravery then today.
Enough is enough.
Don’t pretend that your kids don’t realize something’s very wrong. They’re smarter than you think.
When your children see violent images or witness it first hand, what do you do or say?
Approach “The Race Talk” as an ongoing dialog with your kids that must continue as long as racism exists.
It will require 100% honesty and 100% candidness.
- First, start by looking within. Root out all the racist assumptions you hold, maybe without even being aware of them, then work on the following:
- Surround yourself and your kids with Black-positive images and stories.
- Reach out and befriend Blacks in all your social spheres.
- Call out racism as morally reprehensible whenever you witness it.
Each time you do, make a point of discussing it with your children.
As you model anti-racist talk and behaviour, your kids will begin to see it as normal and do the same. When you may or may not be present.
Person by person, we’ll build an equitable and just Ireland and thus world.
Get started today. Lives are on the line. Our children’s future is at stake.