Talking To My White Kids About Systematic Racism

ferguson

Last night Jason and I watched the Ferguson decision on TV. The kids — tired from a night when everyone had to be somewhere, hair slicked back from showers, mismatched pajamas on — wanted to be close. They kept coming into our room, leaning against our bed, asking us what they were seeing.

I hushed them at first. History was happening and my emotions were swirling and I wanted to watch. But then I found myself talking. They crawled onto the bed as I did; they were staying put.

Their eyes widened. At first I was glad that this slice of Americana history shocked them. We don’t really live in a world where this isn’t news, is what I thought. This new generation will have it right.

But then the screen panned to the white police officer and he was young. He didn’t have it right.

“That’s him,” Jason said. And the way they were sitting, I could see all of their profiles, their first reactions in front of my eyes. My Staircase is what I’ve always called them.

I went back and forth between the impossible juxtaposition of peaceful words from our POTUS, tear gas on the split screen, the hurting words on Twitter, and my Staircase.

I did have a mothering twinge at letting them see all of the above. But two things made me let them (have them?) stay.

The first is that it’s my privilege to get to be the one to show them what the right side of history should have been. And the second, is that change has never happened with silence and comfort.

So as the wise Kelly Wickham said, it’s time to do the work.

And for us moms, a part of that work is showing our kids what reality is and where it’s wrong.

Let them see us hurt, show them how to listen, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong. Literally, give them words to use. Start here. 

Some important tweets to see are:

Some important reads about race are:

Dear White Mom by Keesha Beckford on Bon Bon Break

Teaching Kids To Think Critically About Ferguson on Teaching for Change

Again. And Again. And Probably Again. by Arnebya Herndon

I Speak Girl by Kelly Wickham

We’ve Reached the Point Where We Meet Black Boys at Their Deaths by Kirsten West Savali on Dame Magazine

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Galit. My daughter, my 7-yo, she was heading to bed and I think I was in stunned silence. My husband and I watching in different places, not in the same spot and not ready to present it all. But I think I will do it soon. I just want to shield her. She’s so young. She doesn’t “see” it. I don’t want her to have to. I want it GONE. But I know better. xo, my friend. This motherhood thing is hard, isn’t it?

  2. As you often do, you’ve written about this hard, messy, complicated topic in words that are clear and truthful and filled with hope – even if we know there’s still a long struggle ahead.

  3. This is so wonderfully said. I too believe that WE should be the ones to talk to our children about these difficult topics. WE should be the ones to open their eyes to all that is not 100% innocent or right. I’m proud of you for doing what you did and explaining it in a way that truly opened their eyes. There is a fine parenting line between spouting and pounding your beliefs on your kids and exposing them to enough “everything” to allow them to mold, shape and decide on their own with their minds and eyes wide open. Exposure is a necessary thing if done with a pinch of protection and care. You are a good mama, lady. A good, rock solid mama.

  4. I’m just trying to go through all the transcripts and determine what is fact — what really happened out there to lead to this tragedy? Tumblr surely does have it’s opinion – but I see a lot of emotion, and not always a lot of fact. That’s what any trail is supposed to be based on: not the court of popular opinion. We OWE both these men that — that’s real blind justice. No matter how distasteful a result we find: a racist cop, or a kid with an attitude gone bad?? The truth is somewhere in there and it’s our responsibility to seek it out. And then we must make whatever changes necessary.

    I am white female, Canadian: what do I know of race riots? So yes — It is so important to get this right. For our children’s sake. I am no racist and sure intend not to raise any.
    But you see, I’m also a cop’s wife. Right now – I sleep with the (apparent) enemy. So any conclusion I draw, any statements I conclude: are going to be considered influenced by that. Because of course I want my husband to be safe!
    And you know, at the end of the day, all my husband and I want as parents AND as a law enforcement family, is to make this world better. To respond to difficult situations with love first, and judgement… well, never. that’s all we strive towards: for all of us.
    I just hope everyone can remember that is also the face behind the badge.

  5. Well said Galit. We are talking to the kids about racism, but given they don’t know about this case or any others right now, we have not talked specifically about this case. I think the time is coming soon for our 8 year old. I’m wondering when the right time is for my 6 and 4 year old. I’m not sure, but we are talking NOW about love and hate and race and taking care of our fellow human beings.

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