I can readily visualize the reaction of the readers after glancing at the title. Some would gasp wondering what direction the ensuing topic is going to take, others may resort to a puzzling dismissal of “whatever next” or “not again”, and yet there are others who may read with a checked air of inquiry geared towards ascertaining my view of the glass, is it half full, or is it half empty? The topic in itself is one that is so often skirted over or totally avoided despite its prominence in our present day society.
There are so many allegations of racism hurling about in the media these days, that it is extremely difficult to decipher who is a racist and who is not. Minorities accuse white people of racism. White people accuse minorities of racism. Just who is the racist? The true answer eludes us all.
How many times have you seen a meme of a Black child embracing a White child with the caption about children being innocent and not seeing color, or reminding us that they are not born racist? These memes tend to appear in abundance especially when discussions about racial bias are taking place. Yes, we all high five one another, and talk about the next generation giving us hope, but tend to pussyfoot around the reality that one day these very same two children will likely distrust one another. No one wants to talk about how children actually learn prejudices. Instead we all sit around pretending that everything will be okay in the future. Now get this straight if we are really honest with ourselves, we will readily admit that things are not going to be okay in the future and that we are part of the problem. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we need to acknowledge how we continue to perpetuate prejudice and /or racism in our everyday lives.
In order to demystify the situation let us define the two main elements. Prejudice is an unfavorable opinion of a person due to their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc. Racism is what happens when you mix prejudice with power and use the two to discriminate against a group of people in a systematic manner. Here are some ways in which as parents we pass down prejudice which can lead to the perpetuation of racism.
We Say One Thing, But Do Another
Here we are telling our children not to judge a book by its cover, yet how many of us actually follow through with this when it comes to people? We stereotype and judge other parents on the playground, on the street all the time. Get it straight I am not talking about shaking your head because a mother is on her cell phone instead of looking at her child, or because they’re hovering over their children. Have you ever prevented your child from playing with certain kids at the playground because they have a single mom? Have you ever turned down a play date because you’re worried about their same-sex parents? It’s easy to think that they’re not paying attention, but as I have oftentimes written we know that children are sponges and are always paying attention.
We cross the street and lock our car doors when we see someone, even our own black teenagers that look suspicious dressed with hoodies, or there are a group of white teenagers dressed in Goth-like attire. Do you explain to your children that you are locking the car door because you’re in a parking lot alone at night? Or do you make a scared face and hurriedly lock the door with no explanation? Do you try to prevent your children from drawing their own conclusions about your fear and later doing something similar.
We Shout Out Offensive Things During Tense Moments
We are all guilty of this one. When it was announced that there was no indictment for Darren Wilson after the death of Michael Brown, some of us openly and without restrain discussed our disdain for “those white people”. We must learn to change the channel and avoid those tense moments when our children are in our presence. While we all know the realities of racial issues, we must nevertheless provide the children with the information from a more neutral standpoint and allow them to come up with their own ideas based on their own experiences.
We Promote Respectability Politics
When we tell Black children that they must wear button-ups instead of hoodies if they want to be respected. When we make comments about same-sex couples flaunting their love in public or these relationships being shown on television. When we focus on what young women wear that “tempt” men. We are teaching our children that only certain people deserve respect, and .in addition telling them it is okay to show bias to someone who does not perform their roles in society the way we deem appropriate. Sadly, we are teaching them to stereotype groups and leading them down the road of prejudice even though we think we’re just protecting them.The dangers that we are concerned about are definitely real, but we must explain those dangers to them. Instead of saying that hoodie makes you look like a thug or those shorts make you look like a hooker, we must sit down and explain to them the ways they may be viewed by people who are racist, sexist and/or prejudiced. Put the shame on society instead of the victims.
We Remain Silent During Uncomfortable Moments
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silences of our friends.” This famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always comes to mind when I’m tempted to stay silent in an uncomfortable moment. If you stay silent when your family and/or friends discuss hot button issues and state their prejudice loud and clear in front of your children, you are silently agreeing with the sentiments. Sure, you could talk to your children about it later to let them know that you disagree, but if you want to raise a social justice advocate, you need to model that behavior by speaking up in front of everyone.
Remind family and friends that you will not allow them to express prejudice against any group in front of your child, as it is counter-productive to the person you want him to become. Our prejudices can make the difference between our children being bullies or advocates.
I know for a fact that raising children is no mean task. Raising children who are socially conscious and aware is even harder. Admitting that we are part of the problem is probably the hardest thing ever. If we can all work to eradicate these things from our parenting, I think we will be further along on the journey towards acknowledging our privilege, checking our prejudice, and putting down our pride. Let us try for the goal is not unattainable.
Aleuta- The struggle continues.
Writing By: Yvonne Sam