BLack Lives Matter
The past few weeks has seen the nation erupt in protest over the horrific injustice of police brutality resulting in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and now Rayshard Brooks. Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch were both found dead in similar circumstances within 10 days of one another. Black Lives Matter is on everyone’s mind as protesters everywhere are asking for fundamental change. There is a reckoning for racial justice at every level, CEO’s of major companies are stepping down amidst backlash, petitions are sprouting like wildflowers. Everywhere you look, on street corners, social media, store windows, and impromptu gatherings on the streets, there are Black Lives Matter signs and chants. Schools have conveniently white washed America’s racist history to make it more palatable for white people. So how do we talk to our children about Black Lives Matter in a healthy, positive way, while remaining truthful about the significance of what’s going on?
The topic of race is uncomfortable, and never easy to discuss. Why are people discriminated against? Why doesn’t everyone have the same opportunities? Why do people hurt each other? Many white parents may think, “if I don’t talk about racial stereotypes or biases, then my children won’t have any.” That’s like saying “I don’t see color.” Color shouldn’t be ignored, it should be embraced. When we don’t talk about what’s going on around us, children form their own ideas based off of what they’re seeing and hearing. Children will notice that all of the faces of people on picket signs are Black, and they will notice that their murderers were white. Children of all races will naturally have anxiety about their roles in this, Black children will wonder “will my dad be next?” while white children will fear that they are inherently aggressors. These fears will not manifest on a conscious level, so it’s important for parents to express their care and concern and create a safe space for children to talk about their feelings. Ask children what they’ve noticed about Black Lives Matter. What have they seen? How do they feel? What do they think is going on? What are their friends saying? Do they have any questions? Educate yourself as much as you can on Black history and the history of racism in America so that you can answer as truthfully as possible.
Explain Black Lives Matter
A major and misguided response to Black Lives Matter is that “all lives matter.” While obviously all lives are inherently valuable and sacred, not all lives are being threatened like Black lives are. This can easily be explained to children with an anecdote of a house fire. If your neighbor’s house is on fire, it needs special attention to put the fire out. Firemen come and use hoses to put the fire out. If your other neighbor who’s house is not on fire claims that “all houses matter” and the house that is on fire is no more important or deserving of attention than the others, that doesn’t make much sense, does it? The house that is on fire is in the most danger, and needs the most attention to fix it. It’s the same for Black lives. They are in the most danger, and need the most help.
“Create a sense of safety and stability so that they can feel more comfortable about their role in the world. Let them know that they can make a difference and that there are concrete, tangible action steps that they can take.”
It’s Okay Not to Have the Answer
While having these difficult conversations, encourage children to come up with their own ideas on how to help. It’s important that they are able to exercise their creativity while drawing their own conclusions, and it’s very important that parents encourage this. A strong trusting relationship will build the foundation for the future. Don’t worry about saying the “right” thing to your children, instead embrace the fact that we’re all human and we’re always learning what does and doesn’t work all time time.
Take Action and Inspire Hope
What can be incredibly discouraging for children is when they ask “why is the world they way it is?” And parents respond with, “that’s just the way the world works.” This sets a standard not only of doom, but also of immobility. If children are not made to feel like the world can change, if they feel like the world isn’t fair and that there’s nothing they can do, this will cause anxiety and even depression. What’s the point of growing up in a world where there is injustice and there’s nothing anyone can do about it? Instead, inspire your children to take action. Create a sense of safety and stability so that they can feel more comfortable about their role in the world. Let them know that they can make a difference and that there are concrete, tangible action steps that they can take. Having a plan and being able to take action will greatly decrease their anxiety and having an active role will boost their confidence and self esteem.
It’s a Movement not a Moment
While our news outlets and social media feeds will eventually begin to go back to normal, there is still fundamental change that needs to happen on every level in our society in order for Black lives to be safe and valued. Keep talking with your children about what you can do to promote racial justice and equity even after the social media trends die down. Watch shows and read books about race, encourage diversity at your child’s school and in their extracurriculars, volunteer in your community, buy from Black owned businesses and restaurants.
Children are our future, and every child regardless of their race, gender, or orientation should be given the resources they need in order to thrive in this world. Reach out to us with any questions or concerns about speaking to your child about Black Lives Matter.