How are we raising anti-racist children and preparing the next generation to be justice advocates and changemakers?

 When I’ve invited these conversations with caregivers and educators in my life, diversifying the bookshelf and other media consumption for our children is certainly the number one answer, and is undoubtedly important. Specifically for those less practiced at talking about race, this question leads to more questions and even some fear. What do age-appropriate conversations about race and systemic racism look like for my child? What if I say the wrong thing?

In the last week, I’ve listened to this insightful interview with Aiko Bethea (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert) and Brené Brown (researcher) on Inclusivity at work: The Head and Heart of Hard Conversations and started a three-part workshop called “Raising Anti-Racist White Children” by the Center for Study on White American Culture (recommended by fellow Diversity and Community Engagement Committee member). A few months ago, I also had the opportunity to sit down and interview TNSM’s very own Johnnyé White about her experience working with our children through Appreciating Differences (6-9) and Civic Discourse and Civics.

There were a few common themes that bubbled up for me, so I thought I’d take some time to pull out what I heard and share with you. These are not my original thoughts, but instead summaries of my learnings from the wisdom of others.

  1. Introspection (and education) is key. The kinds of conversations we are capable of having with our children can only be as deep as our own awareness, knowledge and reflection on issues of equity (race, gender, mental health, etc). We have to make the work of raising anti-racist, anti-biased children about us, as adults, unlearning and relearning our histories. Only then can we provide the kind of leadership our children need from us in this space.
  2. Courage is necessary. Whether it’s in the workplace or in our home, being honest about our biases and the inequity in the world and the roles we play in upholding those inequities is painful. We will also mess up – in our conversation with co-workers, with our peers and certainly with our children. We have to embrace discomfort, we have to step in with courage.
  3. Listen and open the conversation. What are your child(ren) saying about the world around them? What are they observing? What questions do they have? I was reminded that children are more perceptive than we often give them credit for (great piece on this here). It’s our job to let them know we welcome conversations about race and inequity and that we are ready for it, curious, and eager to live in a just world, as they are too.

I hope these sources and themes are helpful!

Sarah Corlett (committee member)

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