MLK Day is as good a time as any to talk to your daughter about racial justice. This is a brief guide for all of you raising white girls to take center stage in a complex and unjust world.
We recommend having a brief discussion that goes like this…
“Have you noticed…?”
The first step in building strong critical thinking muscles is helping our girls engage their senses to notice what is actually going on in the world around them. This can be done very simply with questions like “Have you noticed…”
…that there are more white kids at our school than black and brown kids?
…if people look at you differently when you hang out with Jimena vs. when you hang out with Megan?
…that all the characters in that show you like to watch have white skin?
“How do you feel about that?”
Give her space to feel and express her feelings about what she is noticing. Allow any feeling to be okay – even if it’s neutral (“i feel fine about it, I guess.”) This may be the first time she has ever considered this point and she doesn’t quite know how she feels yet or how to express it.
“Here’s how I feel…”
You as the grown up get to take center stage when you share your feelings with your daughter. “I feel worried that our school is not welcoming enough for black and brown kids and their families.” or “I feel angry that the shows we watch don’t make space for more characters of color.” This helps your daughter understand the extent to which racial inequality affects you and shows her that you are not afraid to be vulnerable in the face of it. That vulnerability is the source of your true strength and will help your whole family better stand up for what you believe.
And finally, we have heard from many white parents that they need tools knowing exactly what to say to their children about the realities and dynamics of race in this country.. How do you present what is true about power, privilege, and injustice in a way that your child can understand and take in?
Try this out and let us know what you think –
“Everyday, we receive a lot of messages about how white people matter more than black and brown people. These messages are wrong and must be changed. These messages are hard to change because they come from a long history of treating black and brown people unfairly. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
We don’t always notice these messages. We don’t always notice because we are white people and these messages reflect a world that is centered around us and tells us we are more important. Because we know this is wrong, as white people, we must use our eyes and ears to notice when something is unfair for black and brown people in our community. We must use our voices to say that we don’t like it. Then, we must use our imaginations to find creative ways to change these messages.”