This is a painful post for me to write, as we used to call Charlottesville our home. It is bitterly disappointing to see something so grotesque to go on in a place you love. I will just say: this shouldn’t be America. I am sorrowfully not surprised by the horrors of yesterday, because I could see it happening anywhere in the country right now. Charlottesville is a strong, diverse city; I know the people will rebuild C-ville more culturally responsive and better than ever.
Some think that racists come from parents teaching racism or intolerance. But science tells us that that merely the absence of teaching tolerance is enough to raise a racist. (Jennifer Richeson, 2017) Society teaches racism. Instead, we must teach our children to fight intolerance.
This post is about how to help kids understand activism and standing up for those with fewer rights than they have. These are skills I practice with my own daughter, adjusted for age. (Fellow teachers, please also talk about recent hate crimes in your classroom. For some, you might be the only voice explaining cultural competence to them.)
- Read, read, read: There are many books about activism for children. We like A is for Activism, by Innosanta Nagara… but there are so, so many to choose from. (See below.) The most important thing is that our children are informed. If I feel at a loss for words, or can’t describe my feelings about a certain event, there is always a book that has put it eloquently. Then I can talk about it with my daughter in an age-appropriate, authentic conversation afterward.
- Explain the news: Images on the news can be terrifying if unfiltered, monitor and minimize their exposure to the fallout on the tv. Try to be the first to explain an incident to your kids. If they read about it on social media, there’s the possibility that they’re getting misinformation. Start off by making sure they know you are there to keep them safe. Validate their feelings–it is completely reasonable to be frightened in the event of a tragedy. Use age-appropriate language and be sure to answer any questions they have afterward.
- Get your kids involved in contacting your representatives: Imagine the fun of making a video with your awesome little actor, write a card or letter together, etc. Your kid will be really into it if you make it a family event.
- Take your kids to a protest, or participate in a virtual march if safety could be an issue. Please make your safety and that of your child your number one priority, and never attend a protest without a safety plan. If the protest seems like it could become unsafe, skip it, but make a sign or tee-shirt, and…
- Give: consider encouraging your child to give some of their allowance to an organization they believe in. Often, organizations can put even $5 or $10 to good use, and it will make your kid feel amazing to know their money is going to help other people live better.
- Take care of yourself: Our babies learn best from watching us. They need to see us fighting the long fight. This means taking breaks from activism if we get weary. Turn off the news. Go outside or play a game. Rally. Repeat.
Suggested reading from our family friend: reading list here