In light of Spring Valley (Part Two): Activism, the police, and my three-and-a-half-year-old

a for activistby Sachi Feris

Almost a year ago, when I was launching Raising Race Conscious Children, I wrote a post about what I would say to my future four-year-old about Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Well, my daughter is almost three-and-a-half so I have six months to make good on my promise…but here is how I’m planting the seeds now.

Since the birth of my son, almost two months ago, my daughter and I have been re-visiting our collection of board books with our new baby. Among them are “A is for Activist” and “A de Activista” (English and Spanish versions) and “Jobs Around My Neighborhood.”

First, I opened “A is for Activist” and I asked to my daughter, “Do you know what an activist is?”

She wasn’t sure, so I explained: “An activist is someone who sees something that is unfair and decides to do something to make it more fair. For example, people who are Black are treated differently than people who are White. And women are treated differently than men…women don’t make as much money as men, for example, and that’s not fair.”

The covers features a child’s fist held up in the air which I imitated and said, “So people speak up and say ‘that’s not fair, we want justice.’”

We turned the pages of the ABC book and I highlighted words and people who stand for activism and justice. On B for Banner, I explained, “People make banners with messages to make people aware that something need to be to more fair.”

“One day I want to make a big banner with a message,” my daughter told me.

“What would the message be?” I asked.

“To make things more equal for women and men,” she shared back my example.

Then it was time to read, “Jobs Around My Neighborhood.” One of the first images is of a police officer. “Police officers keep us safe” read the text in the book.

“Hmmm,” I commented out loud. “The goal of a police officer’s job is to keep us safe but unfortunately, that is not always what happens. Some police officers treat Black people differently than White people and that’s not fair. Police officers are supposed to help people but some police officers don’t help people, but instead, end up hurting people.”

“A fireman helps people,” my daughter offered, pointing to the image on the next page of a fireman helping a cat down from a tree (how often does this actually happen?!).

“Yes,” I agreed. “A firefighter’s job is also to help people.”

For the moment, our conversation about activism and police officers was over. I had no intention, on this day, of telling my daughter about the girl, who is Black, who was slammed to the floor by a police officer whose job is to keep people safe. But when I do begin sharing real stories about the real world, she will already have a base for talking about fairness. It will not come as a surprise to her that people are treated differently based on how they look. Most important, she will know she has the power (and responsibility) to do something about it.

Click here to read Part One of this post.


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 BrooklynSachi identifies as White and is a mother to a three-year-old daughter and newborn son.