Talking about Privilege & Racism - A Parent's Challenge

July 07, 2020

Talking about Privilege & Racism - A Parent's Challenge

If you’re a parent struggling to make it through the day while juggling work, kids, health concerns, and more, In the City Camps is here to help! Partnering with JF&CS and Jumpspark Atlanta, they are proud to announce Pandemic Parenting, a new support group for parents during this turbulent time.

On Friday mornings, parents are joined by JF&CS clinicians who share helpful tips and tools for parents to implement. To kick off the first session, fellow mom and clinician Ula Zusman joined us to discuss how to talk with our kids about race.

A Guide for Conversation

With the recent horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, and George Floyd, to name just a few, along with centuries of systemic inequities and abuse, the time is more pressing than ever to have conversations about racism and privilege. But talking about these things can be difficult, especially if we are unaccustomed to it. Our children need to learn how to think and feel about these issues, and we can help guide and instruct through conversations.

First, we need to examine our internal biases and stereotypes and consider where they originated, whether it be in messages you received as a child about people who were different from you or the racial make-up of your school or hometown. These experiences produce and reinforce bias, stereotypes, and prejudice, which can lead to discrimination. Examining our own biases can help us begin the anti-racist work to ensure equality for all.

Understanding Privilege

The next step is understanding and acknowledging our own privilege, which may come in the form of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and more. There are many books and resources available to help expose and dismantle racist thinking, but 2 great places to start are Peggy Macintosh’s article on the invisible knapsack and Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”. By checking our privilege and using it to dismantle systemic racism, we can collectively empower others. To do this, we need to validate the feelings and experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) by reading, watching and listening to the voices of people of color and learning about living as a person of color in a white-dominated world. There are many available resources out there that you can use to enhance your knowledge.

In conjunction with our own work on privilege and racism, we need to also have these conversations with our children. Although this may seem daunting, parents can break concepts down into age-appropriate ideas that kids can understand. Children are highly attuned to issues of fairness, so frame conversations around how some people are treated unfairly based on the color of their skin. Check in and monitor feelings before, during and after conversations. Be honest and let your children see your emotions, whatever they may be. Let them know that these feelings are ok but that they cannot paralyze us and prevent us from doing what is right. Emphasize your hope for a better future and plan ways your family can help make that a reality.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Find ways to take action as a family, expand their toys and books to ensure multicultural representation, and read books where the main protagonists are people of color who have qualities and abilities you desire your children to emulate. Our actions speak louder than words – children notice in which neighborhoods we lock our car doors, who we invite over for dinner, which restaurants we frequent etc. These implicit actions constantly impart family values and inherent biases that parents can capitalize on – discussions on race don’t always have to be super formal.

We cannot be afraid to discuss oppression and discrimination for fear of “getting it wrong”. This is not a “one and done” conversation – we will stumble and fall on this path, but we cannot allow the fear of failure paralyze us and condemn us to inaction. We must educate ourselves and raise our children to be anti-racist to ensure a better future for all.