Raising anti-racist kids is teaching equality

My daughter knows that black people aren’t really black. They are actually different shades of brown. She also knows that people aren’t actually white either.

In her innocence, she refers to a box of pencils to make her point, holding up a black and a white one.

“See,” she said. “We are brown. No one is black or white.”

My son thinks people are pink and purple and black is the color of hair, eyes and the interior of our car.

These are conversations we have over dinner. In my attempts to explain the concept of race to a 6 and 4 year old, I am reminded that race is meaningless. It’s really an invented construct based on a hierarchy of power and privilege that impacts everything from how we live to how we see ourselves in the mirror.

I hope to teach my children to see the beauty in all people in all shades, to see the power of their hair, which grows in the sun, the richness of their cocoa skin, and to know that they can do whatever they want to be.

The idea is that they are anti-racist, a concept I only recently learned from Dr. Ibram X Kendi’s many best-selling books, including “How to Be an Anti-Racist”, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” and “Antiracist Baby,” which was the subject of a bizarre attack by Sen. Ted Cruz during Katanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings earlier this year. The attention, ironically, caused book sales to skyrocket.

Kendi is a leading anti-racism researcher and founding director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. In 2020, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine and received the MacArthur Genius Grant 2021. He has a new book, “Goodnight Racism”, a version of the classic children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, “Goodnight Moon”.

Raising anti-racist children means teaching them to understand that even if our skin color is different, we are all human and that we should all be equal, even if we are not all treated the same.

“I think all parents of any child should raise their children to be anti-racist,” Kendi said. “We must protect our children of color from thinking that people of color in general have less because they are less, just as parents of white children must protect them from the idea that white people have more because they are less. are more. So any idea that suggests a racial group is better or worse is definitely not an anti-racist idea.”

Conversations about race are often difficult because there is so much fear and hate to offend. Feelings are hurt when race is the issue.

As hard as it is to engage adults on the breed, Kendi said, there’s a common assumption that it’s going to be even harder with kids, when it’s actually a lot easier. The children will give it to you directly. They don’t have the baggage that adults have.

“There’s also this perception, especially among white parents, that ‘I don’t want to say the wrong thing or introduce race to my child. “So there’s this belief that if you talk to them, you’re going to make them racist, instead of protecting them from racism. And then there’s also the shame,” he said.

“I suspect that when a white child says something like, ‘Black people are bad’, his parents are ashamed. When a parent of a Latinx child hears his child say, ‘I want to have blue eyes’, as if to n anything else, we want to get away from shame, instead of understanding that it doesn’t mean we’ve failed as parents. It means we live in a dangerously racist society from which we must protect our children. .

Her thoughts on raising children to be anti-racist were amplified when her 6-year-old daughter, Imani, was born. It became even more crucial after the murder of George Floyd, when so many young people were demonstrating against injustice.

“We saw high school kids demanding to be told the truth and expressing how upset they were with the way they were raised,” Kendi said. “They didn’t want this kind of parenting form of colorblind avoidance denial to continue. Then many parents and teachers saw this and started responding to it, looking for support or resources to guide them as they they were guiding their students and their children. I noticed that I kind of thought about that personally.”

Her daughter, like mine, encouraged a broader dialogue about race at home. It tells the story of her attending daycare, where she played only with a blue-eyed, blonde-haired doll for several days, and on the fourth day she had a fit because she didn’t want to leave. the doll when it was time to go home. But there were no dolls at daycare that looked like her.

“She had no other choice. It taught us the importance of making sure her toy box, wherever she goes, her surroundings, wherever she goes, that she sees the human,” he said.

Kendi continues to face criticism for her work that teaches us about our humanity.

Cruz’s attack on his children’s book “Antiracist Baby” is a prime example. There’s nothing in the book that’s controversial – racism is taught, we’re all human, and bad politics is the problem, not the people. Still, it was a tough time for Kendi.

“Watching someone weaponize and twist my book to try to hurt the prospects of someone who was extremely qualified was hard to watch,” Kendi said. “But to know that people understood that and saw that he was trying to demonize and weaponize a book that actually tries to work with children and certainly parents to think differently and appreciate racial equality is something. which I enjoyed. Unfortunately what he did is symbolic of how people have attacked my work. It has been consistent and constant distortion and misrepresentation and then an attack on distortion and misrepresentation .

We need to arm children with ideas to make the world a better place.

“I think we are going to make mistakes and our children are going to be hurt by racism, I don’t know if there is a way to completely protect them. Let me say, when our children actually say what they think about racing and feel comfortable enough to do it, that’s actually a good thing.”

My son, who sees people in shades of pink and purple, said it perfectly: “I think people should be all colors, like the rainbow.

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