Parenting and Baltimore: Where to begin
During the weeks after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictments, various White friends asked me whether I thought they should be talking about these issues with their school-aged children. My daughter was just two-and-a-half at the time and I was not talking about it with her…but to my friends with four and five-year-olds, I answered unequivocally “yes.”
“Should I be talking about Michael Brown and Eric Garner (and Freddie Gray) with my child?”
In hindsight, I realize that my inquiring friends were not just looking for my affirmation, (click here for my post on talking about Michael Brown and Eric Garner), and they were not looking merely for a script for four-year-olds, either.
While they lacked the “right words,” (“There are a lot of people who are sad and mad because a police officer hurt a man who was Black…”) what they needed even more was practice talking about race. Michael Brown and Eric Garner are both inappropriate (and unfair) topics for a parent’s first conversation about race with his or her child. That is why I so strongly believe in naming race on a day-to-day level with children—so that we have a shared language for speaking about racism when we encounter it.
When I reflected on my advice on what to say to children about Brown/Garner, I realized that instead of launching into my advice, I should have asked my White friends whether they had previously talked about race with their child, and urged them to start there. A White parent who has not vocally and transparently acknowledged their own Whiteness (as a means to un-invisibilizing Whiteness), who has not used the words “White” or “Black” as descriptors, who has not, in short, been race conscious in place of colorblind…cannot begin a conversation about race with Michael Brown or Eric Garner…or Freddie Gray.
But they can take a step back. They can open up a book like More, More, More by Vera B. Williams and start naming race. Start there. Start where it feels safe. Build your skills. But start.
We can’t afford to wait for the next national tragedy that exposes our racism to start this conversation. As White people, it can be part of our daily conversation with our children.
Sachi Feris is a blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children, an online a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. Sachi also co-facilitates interactive workshops/webinars and small group workshop series on how to talk about race with young children. Sachi currently teaches Spanish to Kindergarten and 1st grade at an independent school in Brooklyn.