4 Little Things You Can Do to be Anti-Racist as a Family
Recognizing that racism still exists in our country is not a new concept, but many parents are just being introduced to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ways in which we can come together and be vocal about social injustices. How do you fight racism as a family? By actively working toward improving ourselves as parents and committing to raising our children to be anti-racist. Here are a few things you can do right now to fight for what's right as a family when it comes to dismantling systemic racism.
Educate Your Family on Racism
Racism is more than using slang or derogatory terms. It's also systemic and has been woven into American history and society. Unfortunately, society and the American school system hasn't done much to teach students about how deeply rooted racism is in our history.
Watching movies, reading books, and following the news and the Black Lives Matter hashtag are all great ways to learn more about history and systemic racism and what needs to change. After indulging in this information, take the time to discuss with your children. Pause movies and ask them what they think about the diversity or lack of diversity in the cast of TV shows. Get their thoughts about Martin Luther King Jr.'s peaceful protests and assassination. And make sure the conversations and education is ongoing.
Regardless of how you choose to educate yourself, it's important you do the work yourself as opposed to asking your Black friends about it. The information is there and the hard part has been done for you already, says Danielle Faust, a life coach in West Palm Beach, Florida who has been vocal about racism on her blog and Instagram page.
"Most of us are tired of constantly educating those newly curious about Black people, racism, and how they can help," says Faust. "Go to Google and do a search. Visit the library and just pay attention because chances are you've been told about racism and what needs to change before this."
Identify White Privilege
LaFleur Stephens-Dougan, Ph.D., assistant professor of politics at Princeton University and author of Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics, suggests taking it a step further by identifying your privilege. White privilege is part of the social construct that lends to racial inequality.
One aspect of white privilege is the ability to be accurately represented and somewhat carefree in several situations. How can you start to understand your white privilege? Dr. Stephens-Dougan suggests an experiment a colleague practices which involves looking at news headlines about different races and noticing if the narrative changes when talking about white people or people of color to spark dialogue with kids. Another exercise involves looking at day-to-day tasks and asking yourself if the experiences you have would be different if you were Black.
"Not having to analyze every situation and attributing results to race is an example of white privilege," says Dr. Stephens-Dougan. "I know it's mental gymnastics, but these are things Black people have to do every day."
Diversify Your Life
Kids are going to think Black people are only about trauma, history, and homework if we don't normalize and bring Black culture into our everyday lives, says Faust. "Don't just give them the Black history books. Get them books about a kid who likes basketball who just happens to be Black. Show them the books and movies with the Black and Asian kids playing together. They need to see that Black people are normal too."
It's also important parents do the same thing within their own lives. Kids will notice if all their parents' friends are white or only watch TV shows featuring white people, Faust points out.
Another easy way to start diversifying your life is by looking at your social media feeds. If your feed only features the same kind of people, take a moment to follow Black people. Look at the hashtags that speak about different cultures and pay attention to the stories shared.
But make sure it doesn't end there. Be open and welcoming to inviting diversity into your real life circles. Patronize Black-owned businesses. Consider hiring a Black accountant. Be willing to go out of your way to volunteer and do business in areas with a diverse population. Both Faust and Dr. Stephens-Dougan travel out of their local area to expose their children to diversity.
However, making the effort to diversify your life and support Black people does not give you the license to tokenize them. "It's never OK to have a Black friend just so you can say you have a Black friend," says Dr. Stephens-Dougan. Be sure your motives and intentions are pure. Invite Black people into your life because you are willing to listen and recognize their skills and talents. Don't do it because they fit a box on your list, she adds.
Speak Up and Take Action
The real test of allyship is what you and your family do after the Black Lives Matter hashtag is no longer trending. "So much of anti-racism is the stuff you do when you're no longer getting likes for it on Instagram," says Faust.
Teach children the importance of speaking up when they see something wrong and allow them to see you do it. There is no age limit when it comes to making a difference as we strive for racial justice. Unfortunately, Black people aren't usually offered a seat at the table so it's up to allies to say something if they witness injustice, says Dr. Stephens-Dougan.
"If you want your children to be an advocate for anti-racism, they need to see you call out their uncle for making race jokes at the family party," says Faust. "They need to know that this is something that is for real and not just for show because it's the cool thing right now." Allowing your children to see you challenge racially charged statements is important to the process as children model the behavior they see.
However, calling it out goes further than race jokes. It's addressing implicit racism as well, says Dr. Stephens-Dougan. "You know what race comes to mind when people say 'welfare queen' or 'inner city thug' in conversation. You need to take them to task on what they mean. If you are truly committed to anti-racism, it's up to you to challenge that language."
- RELATED: How to Talk to Your Kids About Race
Families can take it a step further and exercise their voice in places of impact. Sign petitions, donate to organizations that support the advancement of Black people, and write letters to legislators to challenge policies. Even at a young age, children can see that they can make a difference. And turn these actions into habitual routines for your family.
Nothing about anti-racism is a one-time thing. If we truly want to see racial equality, we have to make sure these conversations happen continually and not only when tragedy and injustice strike.