Racism is not an easy or pretty subject to talk about and, for many parents, the current events surrounding the death of George Floyd may be the first time that the topic has ever been raised in the family.
Here are some ideas that might help in explaining to children what is happening and how people are feeling at this time:
- Be calm and listen to your child’s concerns, worries and questions. Ask them how they are feeling about what they have seen or heard. Reassure them that it is ok to be confused or to not understand what is happening.
- Have a conversation – discuss the different points of view, explain a little about some of the injustices suffered by Black people in our country and elsewhere. You might want to talk about the death of Stephen Lawrence, South African apartheid, or the history of slavery – all in an age-appropriate way that reveals enough information to inform but not disturb your child.
- What happened to George Floyd may appear rare but, sadly, it is a repeated offence committed by some police officers against Black people. Reassure your child that, just as not every person is a burglar, not every police officer is violent and racist. George Floyd’s death is also a sad consequence of hundreds of years of inequality, unfairness and oppression of Black people by white people. The protests we have seen are expressing anger and frustration at the ongoing inequality and unfair treatment of some sections of our society.
- Say that ‘some people’ feel a certain way about others, and that it is unfair of them to make judgements because of an aspect of their identity. You can bring this into a child’s perspective by suggesting an allegory – perhaps of only brown-eyed children being allowed to play on equipment in the park, or of only tall people having the right to sit on public benches. This can help to point out the ridiculousness and unfairness of making these distinctions.
- Don’t claim to have all the answers. Children need to understand that it is an extremely complex issue that will not be solved overnight. Many racist attitudes and biases are the product of upbringing and a sense of “That’s how it’s always been”. In society, racial bias is slow to change and can affect minority groups deeply. It is hard for people to let go of this and start thinking differently. But everyone taking a stand and considering their own unconscious (or conscious) bias will help to improve the social climate and create a fairer world for everyone.
- Resolve with your child to keep the conversation open and work together to be people who will not accept racist attitudes. You might like to create a pledge that can be put on the fridge to say that you will not tolerate racist attitudes, jokes, speech or actions in your home as a reminder to yourselves and visitors of how you want to eradicate racism.
There is no doubt that children pick up on many more things they see and hear than we ever know about, especially when an incident like the recent events in the USA reverberate around the world. However, being able to talk to them about issues such as racism and other Hate Crimes is a really important step to help them build a positive attitude to diversity and understand why discrimination is wrong and causes so much pain.
By Stop Hate UK
Stop Hate UK is one of the leading national organisations working to challenge all forms of Hate Crime and discrimination. Visit their website or follow them on Instagram to stay up the date with their continuing work.
Stop Hate UK wrote an article considering how younger people may approach talking to parents about racism: check it out here
You can donate to Stop Hate UK here: http://www.stophateuk.org/donate-to-stop-hate-uk/
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