Talking about racial injustice with your children
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Talking about racial injustice with your children in loving, courageous conversations can lead to revolutionary thoughts that can change the world. They will imitate you far before they realize that their opinions differ from yours. And remember, it’s never too early to talk about race.
In an insightful article on, Here’s How To Raise Race-Conscious Children, Erin Winkler wrote, “Adults often think they should avoid talking with young children about race or racism because doing so would cause them to notice race or make them racist. In fact, the opposite is true.”
Questions are necessary.
What do you speak about when you sit around the dinner table? Have you engaged in complex conversations with your children where there are no simple answers? Are you able to sit in the discomfort? Have you ever asked, “Why do you think that is?”
These questions and more are ones that I think about when I encourage moms and spend time with my children. I am raising adults. My children will soon leave home, and all the hours I’ve spent in prayer, conversation and doing life with them will hopefully begin to bear fruit. But, they have to figure out what they believe for themselves. I hope that all the courageous, uncomfortable conversations we have had will continue into adulthood as we unlearn and learn together.
Racial discrimination and injustice is something that we have to speak about at home. We coach our children to think in particular patterns from when they are young. It is a parent’s privilege and also a sobering reality. Encourage your children to engage in awkward and complex conservations with the heart of a learner. Actively seek out anti-racist role models in your community and in the broader society, and expose young children to these people.
Courage to have uncomfortable conversations
This blog post is here to encourage you to ‘go there’. Parents are sometimes quiet on topics such as racial injustice because they fear saying the wrong thing. Take courage and initiate a discussion. Fear can hold you back from speaking about your growing journey or biases. Preconceived ideas also fill our minds with thoughts that hinder healthy, robust conversations around the dinner table.
Show respect with humility
Chatting with Sean Collard recently, he mentioned that respect is to find value in someone. “Value is guaranteed, and when we respond to others with humility, we show respect.” Treating someone with respect means that you interact with them in a way that shows that you care about their well-being and how they feel. Let us listen to our children, to the surrounding voices that highlight racial injustice.
In my previous post on lamenting, I explained how untransformed pain becomes transmitted pain. Would it not follow that transformed love, becomes transmitted love? Start in your home and see how love can spread beyond your walls.
How can you as a parent prepare yourself to speak up about racial discrimination and injustice? I’d like to propose a few ways:
- The kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom, and His primary currency is love. Check your heart. How is your love quotient doing? What is the condition of your heart? Take time to pray and think about these things first.
- Do your research by reading reputable blog posts, news sources and, of course, Scripture. Watch documentaries and talk about your learnings.
- Then begin the conversation at home if you haven’t done so already. Ask open-ended questions, listen to your children. They are probably already having these conversations with your peers. If you approach them with the heart of a learner, they will most likely open up to you about what they think and feel.
- Spend time grieving about the hurting, neglected and broken people of this world. Keep your heart soft with empathy.
- We have to speak out, and I believe it starts in our home. If enough families talk about racial injustice, inequality and what’s going on, we can begin a transformation.
- When your children notice racial and cultural variances in other people, teach them to appreciate the cultural difference and celebrate the beauty in diversity. It starts with you.
“Shutdown and quarantine have given way to crowded streets filled with masked gatherers, holding riotous vigils, in the waiting room of hope. The Church is being invited to leave the side-lines and take her place, joining God on the front lines of racial injustice and inequality. To speak truth to power while working to dismantle systematic racism deeply rooted both in the world and in the Church. To become peacemakers, bridge builders and agents of reconciliation in the long-ignored fields of pride and prejudice.” Wrote Lisa Koons on the 24/7 blog.
Journal prompts for you as a parent to process your thoughts:
- What can I do to better educate myself of the historical context of race in my country?
- What do I need to unlearn? For example, societal biases or perceptions that are not based on fact or evidence.
- What is the condition of my heart? How can I pray with empathy and discernment
- What do I need to do now?
What about asking our children these questions and leave room for conversation:
- What are you feeling right now about racial injustice? (Speak about specific examples)
- This an emotional time, the world over. How are your friends handling the conversation about race? What are they saying?
- What questions do you have? Invite them to watch a movie or read a book together. Keep the door open and the conversation growing. Based on their age, offer them resources to discover for themselves.
May God give you the grace to parent during these history-making times. May He empower you with love and wisdom to raise children who will change the world we are living in, for His glory and Name’s sake.
This is simply a starting point. I’d love to hear from you. Please share your opinions and helpful resources in the comments below.
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Images courtesy of Unsplash and ColourMe Kids