Better World

How to make sure your family conversation on racism and justice becomes long term

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For many families, the current news cycle about police brutality, #BlackLivesMatter, and civil disobedience has been a wake-up call to begin having conversations with kids about racism. Meanwhile, especially for some Black and POC families, the recent events have been just one more spike in a dialogue that’s been going on for years or generations.

But wherever your family’s starting point is, let’s make sure these conversations and efforts don’t end when the mainstream news moves on to another topic. Racism and violence against Black and brown folks have been present since the beginning of our country, and we all have more to learn and plenty of work to do to heal our society.

So how can we incorporate anti-racism into our busy everyday lives as parents, and continue to engage our kids even after they stop asking questions about the current wave of protests? Here are some ideas to keep up the momentum.

Stay in the local loop

Subscribe to email lists of local activist groups to see what kinds of opportunities you and your family can realistically contribute to. Don’t try to do everything or you’ll only feel overwhelmed and guilty—try to look at it through the lens of what could work considering your and your family members’ strengths and skills, as well as practical concerns like schedules and location. For example, you might not be able to make it to a rally that starts at your kids’ bedtime, but you could enlist your kids’ help in writing, decorating, or stamping political postcards.

Fill your feed

Follow other parents and young people on social media who are dedicated to anti-racism, to serve as an ongoing reminder about the issues that may not always rise to prominence in the mainstream news. For example, The Conscious Kid’s social media accounts provide great starting points for conversations with your partner or co-parent as well as your kids. And following along with young activists such as Mari Copeny (Little Miss Flint) may inspire your kids to take action in their own community.

Keep reading

Overhaul your kids’ book collection (or make some requests at the library) to include more titles that center Black kids doing everyday stuff as well as books that teach kids about Black history, activism, and other social justice topics. As you read these together over the future weeks, months, and years, you’ll be able to build on your knowledge, expand your world, as well as continue these important conversations.

Widen what you watch

Add movies with themes of racial justice, such as The Hate U Give, Loving, and Hidden Figures, to your queue for family movie nights (check age ratings on Common Sense Media). Or start watching a fun, family-friendly TV series with a primarily POC cast, such as Black-ish or Fresh Off the Boat—or for younger kids, a cartoon like Molly of Denali or Motown Magic. Have fun with it, while letting it lead to conversations about what kids see on screen, and how it’s similar or different from your family’s experiences.

Lend an ear

With older kids, start listening to more podcasts—maybe while in the car or during certain meal times—that talk about race and social issues. Examples include Code Switch—they’ve listed some kid-friendly episodes here—and Activist, You! which is geared toward kids. Check out a podcast series on an issue related to kids and race, such as Nikole Hannah Jones’ The Problem We All Live With about segregation in schools.

Being more aware in a multitude of “channels” of your life will help you and your kids have the language to respond next time you hear a racist statement from another parent, or next time your kid witnesses an injustice while out with friends. It takes a lot of practice to be actively and effectively anti-racist, but if we care about creating a better society for all children, it’s work that must continue.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.