19 April 2011

Teaching Children About Racism

"...Equally important is to consciously and directly provide children with a repertoire of responses to the racism and prejudice they will encounter and explain why people are prejudiced. People have always feared what is different. The unfair experiences that minority children are likely to encounter must be discussed openly if children are to be prepared not only to deal with the experience but their feelings of anger at the unfairness, as well. For example, children of color need to know that if they are loitering in a convenience store they will be treated differently than white children loitering in the same store. They need to know how to communicate that they are not threatening , and how to handle a confrontation with the store owner that may arise. They need to understand that an outraged attitude by a white person accused unjustly will be viewed differently than a similar attitude by a person of color.

"What stops parents from discussing this, is not only their own lack of experience with it, but their aversion to destroying their child's innocence-especially when having to lose this innocence is itself unfair. Parents want their children to be free of such worries and to view others, especially adults, as helpers in their world rather than as potential victimizers. They want their children to have enough awareness and skills to keep from being a victim. When it comes to racial issues, parents would like to believe that their child will be evaluated on her own merits rather than on her skin color. Parents need to understand that the attitude that says life is good, life is fair, and if you are the best you can be people will judge you appropriately is more true for a white person than for a person of color and therefore may not serve their children.

"Parents should also be concerned that their children will begin to approach life with a "chip on their shoulder"-believing people will discriminate against them as the result of a quality they cannot change and may not want to change, and that their children will use this as an excuse for not doing their best. Even highly successful minority business executives have had to learn survival skills for interacting in a racist society. Children of color must learn to recognize situations in which racism and prejudice may occur. "Protective hesitation," is an ability to observe a situation for clues that racism may be involved or a potential conflict may develop. Children must also develop a sense of "selective confrontation" and "selective avoidance"-that is, knowing when to back off from a situation and when to deal with it directly. Once they decide on a confrontation, they must also learn various appropriate ways of confrontation. Children also need to know their legal rights and institutional resources available to help them when they are the victims of racism, including the courts and community organizations."

Click here to read the article in it's entirety: Families Supporting Adoption.

I agree that a child "of color" needs to be taught about racism and how to deal with it. Right now, thinking about my precious and innocent baby girl, I cannot fathom having that discussion with her. I do believe it must be done. I dread it even more than the "birds and the bees" talk. How unfortunate that racism is one of those just-the-way-things-are subjects that we have to discuss with our children. How horrible.

We live in a time when our country has newly adopted equal rights. If I stop and think about it it did just happen in my parents' generation. Not that long ago at all. Society has come a long way since then, but not far enough. Not far enough that my husband and I don't have to have this discussion with our child. All because of the skin color. Ridiculous. Annoying. Infuriating.

Have you thought about having this talk with your child? Have you had this talk with your child yet?

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