Our hearts break at the pain experienced across the country this week. We are outraged at the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Oscar Grant, Nia Wilson, and countless others as a result of the police brutality and systemic racism that perpetuate these injustices.
Now is no longer a time for reflection, it’s time for action. We stand by our Black colleagues, readers, and partners. We are committed to fighting this fight with you and will not be silent to racial inequality and injustice.
We’re living in a moment that keeps getting described as unprecedented. And each day the word becomes more accurate, in some new unfathomable way. At the same time, there’s nothing new about police brutality, systemic injustice, and rising income inequality, all of which disproportionately affect people of color. Our country has been struggling against, but also ignoring, the racial and economic injustices that are now tearing the fabric of the nation apart. In the wake of the protests, the police brutality, the pandemic, the pain of millions of Americans losing their jobs, there are no words to easily package these feelings of fear, sorrow, anger.
I've been struggling this week in my role as a parent. As I veer wildly between emotions — heartbroken, angry, confused, numb — my two (white) daughters ask me questions. Should we go to the protests? What about everything you said about social distancing? Why aren’t they charging the police officer with first-degree murder? What's the best thing to do, Mom? I'm the person expected to have answers.
Children, even young ones, are learning and listening in this moment. How do we both protect children from what they can’t handle and empower them to fix this racist country they’re inheriting?
Experts all agree: Parents shouldn't shy away from talking about race. Indeed, Black families have been having “the talk” with their kids for decades. They don’t have the privilege of asking whether to talk about race, only when and how. Experts recommend that whatever your background, conversations about race should include lots of listening about how your children feel, what they believe, and how they can be brave enough to translate those feelings into actions. They also emphasize that how we parents live by our own values is more important than anything we ever say.
As with most parenting advice, writing these words is easy. Embodying them is not. No matter what color your skin is, what level of privilege you enjoy, addressing racial and economic injustice with children is challenging.
Thankfully, there are folks who have been working on this issue for years. There’s lots of great advice out there, but these 10 tips for teaching and talking to kids about race from EmbraceRace and MomsRising (two awesome organizations) are the best we found. They apply to all kids, no matter what the child’s age or family background. If you’re a white parent and don’t know where to start, listen to this 7-minute conversation with the author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” or go deeper with this presentation.
Reading stories also can help pave the way for ongoing conversations, introduce a shared language about racial bias, and offer a kid-friendly way to help your child make sense of this moment. To dive deep into the work of African American children’s authors, check out this compilation of Coretta Scott King Award-winning children’s books. Our grade-based book lists celebrate diversity, explore history from diverse vantage points, and include stories in Spanish and English. They offer children both a window into other communities and a reflection of their own culture.
I’m heartbroken about our country. I’m also hopeful because this generation is so ready for change. But it’s not enough to just place our hope in the next generation. As parents, there’s so much each of us can do now.
I’m sending my love to each and every one of you as you figure out how to navigate this moment in your life and with your children.