I support the Black Lives Matter movement.
It’s time for our third challenge in bringing social justice to our families and kids! The theme for the month is, “Treat every person with dignity and respect: Racial Justice.”
Teaching our children (and ourselves!) to treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of the color of their skin is an excellent place to start. With respect and dignity for all as a core value we are motivated to stand up against injustice such as: hateful rhetoric about Muslims, police brutality against people of color, the poisoning of Native American and Flint, MI water supply, and on and on. At the same time, for there to be racial justice we must address institutional racism and a system of white supremacy. Ok, I know, these are some big and loaded words – AND they are really important in understanding what’s really going on. If you are unfamiliar with any words I’m using check out our definitions page.
It’s hard to talk with our kids about something we don’t know much about. Let’s commit to educating ourselves. This commitment may seem daunting, but it’s worth it! Whether this is all new to you, or you are already committed to standing up for racial justice, check out some GREAT RESOURCES we’ve put together for continued learning.
And even while you are doing some learning yourself, it is so important to talk about race, racism, and racial justice with your kids. You don’t have to have answers, you just need to have courage, sincerity, and the willingness to learn with your kids.
Easy to say, hard to do. Most of us have not been taught how to talk constructively about race, so we just avoid it. If you are a person of color, talking with your kids about race isn’t an option, right? It is crucial for survival in a racist society. But if you are white and parenting young kids right now, you grew up in an age of colorblindness. Statements like, “we are all the same”, “I don’t see difference”, and “I love everybody” probably sound familiar. Biologically we are the same, it’s true. Yet, centuries ago race was socially constructed. The consequences of that social construction have meant very different things depending on the color of our skin.
If we ignore race, then we ignore the past, and we ignore the present ramifications and continuation of a very racialized society. To solve any problem, we’ve got to understand it, and to understand it we’ve got to talk about it, and to talk about it we’ve got to learn about it. Race was created, racism ensued, and now we’ve got to work together to create something much much much better for this world. Our kids are part of the present and future world, so let’s get them in on this discussion and action as early as possible.
Reading is an excellent way to get the conversation started and to keep it going. It is important to read many different kinds of books for our kids to learn about racial justice. Read books about and by Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and people who live all over the world. Read books about hard historical truths, books about the challenges people of color face today (I had a hard time finding one I wanted to share for this category, suggestions welcome!), books about social change that adults and kids are involved in making, books that illustrate people of color experiencing the many facets of life, and books about your ancestors. There are so many amazing books out there! I gotta be real…I have to be really intentional about putting these books into the reading rotation at our house. If I’m not, Star Wars and the Berenstain Bears take over!
Check out our awesome social justice books for kids page for examples.
Questions to Ask Before and After Reading:
Questions you ask your kids while reading books should be open-ended. Here are some ideas, adapted in part from the Lexile Framework for Reading. Don’t try to ask all these questions! Reading should be enjoyable and the stories have their own lessons to teach, whether or not we ask these follow-up questions. But there are big lessons to be learned from books, and asking the right questions can help your kids (and you) go deeper in your conversation about important social justice issues. As Edmund Burke is quoted as saying, “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”
Before your child reads a book, you can ask:
What makes you think this book is going to be interesting?
What do you think the book is going to be about?
Does this book remind you of anything you’ve already read or seen?
After your child has finished a book, ask questions like:
If you were _________, what would you do? What would you feel?
What do you wish was different in this book?
What is one big lesson learned from this book?
How would the world be different if all people acted like ________?
Learning IS action. Believe in the power of reading and talking with your kids about race.
Be intentional about spending time with and forming strong relationships with people on the other side of the fence. Invite people to dinner or to go to an event together. It is not always comfortable, yet it is so rewarding, fun, and crucial for building solidarity. And if it feels like you failed, try again, and again. Good relationships take time.
Get involved locally. If you live in the Southern VT area here are some groups working for racial justice…
The Root Social Justice Centerorganizes 2 forums a year about social justice issues. Some of the forums over the past years: “Mass Incarceration”, “Resisting Criminalization of People of Color and the Poor”, “From Ghetto to Granola: The Experience of Black Women in VT”, and “Migrant Justice.”
Lost River Racial Justice organizes for racial justice in southern VT. They run a study group a couple times a year. And they also organize and participate in marches & other actions for racial justice. Parents rallied against racism in St. Albans, VT in Feb 2016 (article).
Connect to national action.
Showing Up For Racial Justice Through community organizing, mobilizing and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.
Black Lives Matter This is the official website for Black Lives Matter. Read more about the principles of the movement and find out how you can support the movement.
Vermont declared February 12th Black Lives Matter Day. This year I went with my 4 year old to the Statehouse for a celebration, the introduction of bills into the House of Reps, and a teach-in. It was so powerful to be there. Find out what is happening in your state and get involved.
What are ways that you are working for racial justice in your community? How do you involve your kids? Stay tuned for our personal stories in the next couple of weeks. And as always, we’d love to hear your ideas & suggestions.