There is no one-size-fits-all approach for how to participate in anti-racism. Parenting our children with Heart-Mind well-being already equips them with many of the skills they will need in order to become anti-racist allies. It does, however, take awareness, intention, and commitment to educate our children (and ourselves) about how to use our hearts and minds as tools for equity and justice. This process begins with nurturing Alert & Engaged.
This past year's events have been a wake-up call for people around the world to acknowledge that racism is a powerful and dangerous force in the present day. They have also been an anti-racist call-to action for all of us to do our part in challenging and dismantling racism within our homes, schools, and communities.
Anti-racism is a way of seeing, thinking, speaking, and doing, which deliberately challenges racism in all of its forms – from the structural and systemic to the interpersonal and individual. We can begin to engage with anti-racism by nurturing the Alert & Engaged Heart-Mind Quality in ourselves and our children.
First steps in this direction include seeking out an anti-racist education for ourselves and using what we learn to create one for our kids. It is important to consciously search for and deeply listen to the voices of Black and Indigenous people in the process, as they are the ones whose experiences have been marginalized and voices silenced, both historically and in the present day.
To help families and educators cultivate Alert & Engaged hearts and minds with respect to racism, Heart-Mind Online has compiled some suggestions for learning about racism and anti-racism with children of different ages through watching, listening, reading, and doing.
Very Young Children (ages 2-5)
Watch together: The Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism
Listen: Talking Race with Young Children
Primary School Children (ages 6 - 12)
Listen: Racism and Resilience
Do together: Make posters for change and "diversity rocks"
Secondary School Youth (ages 13 - 18)
Listen together: Brené Brown with Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist
Read together: How Much Racism Do You Face Every Day?
Select images from freepik.com
According to Matlock & DiAngelo (2015):
“Antiracist education seeks to interrupt these [racial] relations of inequality by educating people to identify, name, and challenge the norms, patterns, traditions, structures, and institutions that keep racism […] in place."
According to the same authors, "Anti-racist principles include: understanding White privilege and supremacy; challenging colorblindness; countering internalized White superiority; being an ally to people of Color; being accountable to people of Color; and engaging in meaningful action against racism at a personal, interpersonal, and community level."
See Raible's (2009) "Checklist for Allies Against Racism" for more information.
Recent research from the University of Toronto suggests that racial bias may be demonstrated by babies as early as 6 months old, so it's never too early to start teaching your child about anti-racism.
Parents' anti-racist attitudes and behaviors can have a big impact on their children. Research shows that:
- Children's attitudes about racism linked to their perceptions of their parent’s attitudes (Vittrup and Holden, 2011)
- There is a relationship between mothers' implicit racial attitudes and their children's attitudes (Castelli, Zogmaister, & Tomelleri, 2009)
- Preschool children's racial attitudes can be predicted by their mothers' cross-cultural friendships (Pahlke et al., 2009)
- Involve your child in pulling all of their books off the shelf and arranging them in two piles - one in which only white skin tones are portrayed, and one in which black and/or brown skin tones are also (or exclusively) represented.
- Ask your child questions such as: What do you notice about the piles? Is one bigger than the other? What does that mean? How do you feel about that?
- Reflect on potential action together: What can we do to even out the piles? How will evening out the piles change the people we learn about and the stories we read?
- Implement your child's action together (eg. swapping books with a friend, ordering more racially diverse books online or from your local library, etc).
Posters for Change:
- Using markers, paints, crayons, or collage, work with your child to create a poster of one thing that they or their family can do to combat racism (eg. calling out racism when they witness or experience it, including children of different races in their friend group, volunteering in an anti-racist youth organization or organizing an informal protest with their friends etc).
- Since a key component of anti -racism is action, put this picture up in a public place like a school bulletin board or in the front window of your home for others to see and respond to. Be sure to give it a powerful title and descriptive caption to in order to catch people’s attention.
- Paint smooth stones with anti-racist words, phrases and images (such as "Black Lives Matter," "stop racism" etc). Brainstorm what is meaningful to you or look some up online.
- “Plant” them in public parks and gardens or gift to friends, family, and neighbours to encourage others to pause and reflect on anti-racism in their own lives and inspire them to learn more and take action!
- Using a free online design software like canva, support your teen to design a creative visusal social media post (such as an image for Instagram) that shares their views on anti-racism and challenges/encourages peers to pursue anti-racist knowledge and take action.
- This post could include anti-racist messaging or provide examples of actions people their age can take to support anti-racism (eg. writing to a local government representative to advocate for anti-racist policies).
- Discuss with your teen their choices of images and words to ensure they are justice-oriented and empowering, rather than subconsciously perpetuating subconscious bias and stereotypes.