I’ll never forget the first time I came face to face with racial stereotyping. It was my first time babysitting for a family I was introduced to through a mutual friend. I knocked on the door and their daughter answered. I said, “Hi, my name is Kirsten. I’m here to babysit.” Immediately, I noticed her staring at me with a puzzled look on her face. I asked her if anything was wrong. She said, “You don’t have long nails and you talk like me. You don’t look like the Black girls on TV.”
The first thing that went through my head was, What is this girl watching on TV? The second was how little interaction she must have had with Black people. Later, I talked to my parents about how uncomfortable I felt in that situation. But what about the child, who had been so misguided by TV? Did her parents ever discuss her misconceptions with her? It is clear we can’t rely on TV, or teachers, or anyone else, for that matter, to raise our kids without prejudice. Talking about race with kids has to start at home, so don’t put it off any longer and don’t skip doing these 3 important things.
Talking to our kids about race must be a priority for all moms. There are people who need your voice to speak into the next generation. Like other issues—pride, human trafficking, adultery—racism is a sin. And we can’t say that because we personally don’t commit the sin that it’s not a big problem. As the body of Christ, we need to be a voice of truth and that starts at home. Laws are changed in the courtroom, but hearts are changed in the living room. So listen and engage with your children.
First, identify your prejudices.
First, you have to look in the mirror. Get real with yourself about any unresolved feelings that recent events have stirred up in your heart and mind. Learn to be a nuanced thinker about race because it’s a complex topic.
Our children are observant. They pick up on the nonverbal cues we give when watching the news or interacting with people of another race. And if someone points out a blind spot of yours, listen with humility.
Intentionally celebrate different races.
Pretending differences don’t exist, or “color-blindness,” is hurtful, not helpful. The colorfulness that God created in the world and in people is beautiful and was done on purpose. So the fact that we come in different shades is not the problem. The problem comes when there is a value placed on some colors and not all colors.
So incorporate positive narratives about people of color. Read books that celebrate diverse cultures. Invite people into your life who look different than you. Study Black history. There is a lot we can learn from someone else’s story that will enrich our lives.
Set a standard for your family and stick to it.
Be honest when your kids can’t go somewhere or hang out with someone because of the language that person uses or the jokes he or she tells. I heard about a family whose grandmother used terms that were inappropriate. The parents found themselves telling the kids, “That’s just how Nana speaks, but we don’t talk like that.”
Eventually, they realized that allowing their kids to be in the space where those words were used was sending them a powerful message. Their silence spoke volumes. So they had to tell the grandmother, “If you’re going to use this language, we aren’t going to come over.” Set a standard and make practicing good character a family activity.
This is just scratching the surface. There’s so much more we can do and need to do. In our podcast, Why or Why Not with the Watsons, my husband Benjamin and I have two full episodes devoted to this topic: “Let’s Talk About Race” and “Please Talk to Your Kids About Race.” We also talk about marriage and raising seven kids! You can listen and subscribe here.
Are you talking about race with kids in your home? What are you doing to engage with them?