10 Ways To Be An Anti-Racist Parent, Starting Right Now
Written by Erin Feher
Photography by Photo Via Isiah + Taylor Photography
While people in our country can’t really agree on much, there seems to be one statement that every politician, police officer, parent, Hollywood star, and Instagram influencer is comfortable proudly declaring: “I am not racist.” However, if that is the case, how is this still happening? How did George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade all brutally lose their lives in the past month? Because, it turns out, being “not racist” isn’t enough, and is actually contributing to the oppression of and violence against Black bodies. “What is the problem with being ‘not racist’?” asks Ibram X. Kendi in his 2019 book How to Be an Antiracist. “It is a claim that signifies neutrality. ‘I am not racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.’ But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle.”
There is no inaction either. Being anti-racist involves speaking out, making inconvenient choices, asking hard questions of yourself, and often getting upsetting answers. But one of the most important things to know about anti-racism work is that it is also an education, and you aren’t expected to show up the first day and get 100 percent on the test. It is normal and actually incredibly beneficial to realize that you have been doing things that uphold and support racism. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it puts you in the perfect position to start taking corrective action. Writes Kendi, “The good news is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be racist one minute and antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment determines what—not who—we are.”
With droves of people around the U.S. suddenly (and thankfully) looking to combat the deep seated racism that this country was built upon, we’ve put together a guide below on 10 vital anti-racist actions that parents—especially White parents—should take immediately.
Educate Yourself About Racism and White Supremacy and Your Participation In It.
First of all, get cozy with those terms. Racism is not just bygone Jim Crow laws and White supremacy is not just the Klu Klux Klan. White supremacy is everything from police brutality and racial disparities in the COVID-19 crisis to the devastating Black maternal health outcomes to all the White faces that dominate magazines, movies, and television shows. From slavery to segregation to mass incarceration, the centuries-long systemic oppression of Black people is likely something most of us never actually learned about in school. And that’s not an accident. The retelling of history from a White perspective is the very definition of White supremacy. Once you start to understand how the myth of White supremacy is woven into the very fabric of our society, you will start to see more clearly how you benefit from it and how you can work to actively dismantle it. Most importantly, leave your Black friends and other people of color out of it—don’t ask them “what can I do to help?” You are not entitled to another person’s free emotional labor, and it can sound like posturing and laziness when there are countless resources online. Start with some of the resources below and do the work!
To Read: Be An Anti-Racist Book List by the San Francisco Public Library, Dear White Women by Rachel Cargle, Anti-Racism Resources by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein, Anguish and Action by Obama.org.
To Watch: The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross on PBS, 13th on Netflix, Time: The Kalief Browder Story on Netflix, LA 92 on Netflix, When They See Us on Netflix, 4 Little Girls on Amazon, Free Meek on Amazon, Who Killed Malcolm X? on Netflix, Public Address On Revolution by Rachel Cargle on YouTube.
To Listen/Subscribe To: The 1619 Podcast, Master Classes with Good Ancestor Academy.
Study Your Own Power and Privilege.
To some folks, the words “privilege” and “power” might feel like an insult when tossed their way. But it’s important to realize that we all have varying amounts of privilege and power—some more than others, and manifesting in different ways. What’s key is being honest about the privilege you hold, understanding where it comes from, and knowing that it can be used just as effectively for good as for evil. Do you have enough money to spare? Donate to some of the wonderful organizations that are committed to anti-racist work and social justice; also take a hard look at the places you spend your money. Are you in a position to make hires at your company? Do so with inclusion top of mind. Do you have powerful people in your network? Engage them in your activism. Do you have a large audience through your business or social media presence? Use your platform to speak up for racial justice. Are you treated fairly and respectfully in doctors offices and hospitals? Offer to accompany someone who may not feel the same way. Are you an unthreatening presence in front of police? Stand in visible witness or be a liaison if you see a police officer engage with someone who is not. Once you recognize exactly how your privilege manifests, you can aim it at injustice. Ask yourself what power, privilege, and resources you have that you can offer to the cause?
To Read: Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad, What Is White Privilege, Really?, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.
Seek A Wide Variety Of Characters In Children’s Books, T.V. Shows, and Movies.
Another result of White supremacy is that if we are passive about the media we consume, it will undoubtedly be filled with primarily White faces and White perspectives. Of the 3,134 children’s books published in 2018, only 10% featured African/African American characters. Seek out books, toys, television, and movies featuring characters of color and the accurate representation of various cultures. As author and activist Christine Platt wrote in Why We All Need To Read Diverse Books To Our Kids: “Storytelling is one of the easiest and accessible approaches for teaching race, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Don’t just tell children how important it is to respect, value, and honor our differences. When you read to children, show them on the pages of books.” Additionally, take a look at who the authors and creators are who are creating the media you and your family are consuming.
To Read: 50+ Children’s Books That Feature Kids Of Color Just Being Kids, 50 Black History Books For Kids, 10 Great Book-Centric IG Feeds To Follow Now, 20 Beautiful & Diverse Dolls For Children, Kids’ TV Shows With Diverse Characters.
To Follow: @HereWeeRead, @TheConsciousKid, @BlackBabyBooks, @ReadYourWorldMCBD, @LittleFeministBookClub, @TheTinyActivists.
To Watch: TV Shows With Diverse Characters, 10 Kid-Friendly Black History Movies That Tackle Racism.
Teach Your Child About Race, Privilege, and Oppression Early and Often.
The impulse to protect kids from the ugliness of the world is understandable. It is also an option that is really only available to White parents. As author and activist Dani McMclain wrote on MOTHER last year: “Black mothers advocate for our children everywhere, from the playground to the schoolhouse to the doctor’s office. There is always a campaign to wage. There is always a need to make our children’s humanity more visible and to convince, cajole, or pressure someone who’s making our lives more difficult because of their own blind spots or racist impulses,” she says. “Activism is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and it doesn’t take long before we see the systemic reasons we’re constantly waging these campaigns on behalf of our own children and families.” So, first recognize that even pondering the question of when and how to introduce these concepts to your kid is a privilege. Then make it part of normal conversation and discussion in your household, regardless of your child’s age. But here’s the catch: Have you ever tried to explain something to a 4-year-old that you don’t fully grasp yourself? Make sure you do your own homework before you dive deep with your little one.
To Read: How to Talk To Your Kids About Race, We Need More White Parents To Talk To Their Kids About Race, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America.
To Follow: @TheConsciousKid.
Listen To Black Voices.
While anti-racism work might be new to you, know that there are Black people who’ve been discussing these issues and the solutions to these issues all. the. time. We just need to listen. For starters, follow Black voices on social media. Read articles and books written by people of color. As with being inclusive in your children’s media choices, if you don’t actively seek Black voices out, they are likely to be in short supply.
To Follow: @rachel.cargle, @laylafsaad, @glowmaven, @jodiepatterson, @dani_mcclain, @mspackyetti, @ava, @mharrisperry, @osopepatrisse, @opalayo, @aliciagarza, @roxanegay74, @bellhooks, @luvvie, @changecadet, @afrominimalist, @makedomarket.co, @missjulee, @alex_elle, @ibramxk, @thenewjimcrow, @tanehisicoats.
Look At Your Community.
When you take a close look at the makeup of your personal community, you’re often, in turn, looking at your child’s community. “Children start to identify as part of a culture, ethnicity, religion, or group at a young age. When kids are surrounded by different people, they learn how other people live and learn to respect and appreciate people who may not look, live, or talk like them,” explains Dr. Akilah Cadet, an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion, an executive coach, and the founder of Change Cadet. “Parents should model the behaviors that they want their child to have. By taking time to add new friends from a culture or color different than yours, you have a strong possibility of connecting with their children and their friends.” In other words—diversity and inclusion can’t just be a hallmark of your bookshelf, you should strive to make it a reality in your friend circle.
To Read: Help! My Kids Only Have White Friends.
Pay Attention To Your Spending.
Again, the theme of this work is going to be skipping over the “easiest” option. So, instead of buying from corporations that have a history of mistreating workers and keeping systems of oppression in place, look to support more businesses owned by people of color. If you don’t know where to start, thankfully, online lists of these businesses are popping up now more than ever. So, a quick Google search of your local area should turn up some good ones. Some of our favorites are below.
To Read: 10 Black-Owned Bookstores To Support Online, We Buy Black, 27 Black-Owned Brands To Support Today & Every Day, @juleewilson, Make Do Market.
Talk About Race Issues With Your Family and Friends And Call Out Racism When You See It.
It likely won’t be a comfortable conversation, but working to change the hearts and minds of those closest to you is where you will be the most effective. Plus, wouldn’t it be great to know the ones you love are as committed to anti-racism as you are? And you will be modeling an important behavior for your kids: Never be afraid to standup for what’s right. When talking with people you know, you might approach issues in ways you know they’ll specifically relate to, versus lecturing and making them defensive. Each case and approach might be different. Whatever you do, don’t stay silent.
To Read: Speak Up!
Advocate For Local Schools To Make Anti-Racism Education Part Of The Curriculum.
Whether is is through petitions, talking to teachers and administrators directly, or making your voice heard at PTA meetings, advocate for anti-racism to be embraced in the classroom. From history books written from a non-White perspective to discussions of current events that center the narratives of marginalized communities, changing the way our kids are educated can help change the way the world operates. But don’t expect the change to be swift—as teacher Christina Torres wrote in Education Week: “Understanding racism and its roots, questioning our own privilege and biases, and slowly dismantling those systems and beliefs internally and in our schools is a life-long process.”
To Read: The Urgent Need For An Antiracist Education, Teaching Tolerance: Anti-Racist Education, We Need Diverse Books.
Vote, Donate, and Get Political.
The main reason that racism persists in America, despite our seemingly passionate movements to try and combat it, is that it is systematic. As writer and academic Rachel Cargle explains: “Racism is not just a symptom of American life, it is a value of Whiteness that was braided into the fabric of what American revolutionaries built.” So, it needs to be dismantled from the inside. We can do that by voting in change-makers (and donating or volunteering for their campaigns), supporting the work of non-profit organizations that are truly keyed in to where action is needed, and holding corporations and business leaders accountable for the ways they continue to profit off of racist systems.
To Read: 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, United Negro College Fund, Black Youth Project 100, Showing Up For Racial Justice, Flip The Senate.
While we’ve only covered 10 anti-racism actions here, we know there are many more things one can do. If you have ideas and resources you’d like to share, please comment below, or email us at [email protected].
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