When I think about having “the talk” with my kids, my heart races and I have anxiety about what I imagine will be an awkward conversation. As I think about how that dialogue will play out, I am thankful for parent educators like my incredible co-workers at the Children & Family Resource Center, and other resources that will help make my “talk” to my children about sexual health a little easier.
What I cannot stop thinking about is how my fear of “the talk” is very different from “the TALK” taking place in homes of black children and children of color. I now realize that all over our country, black mothers are having very different conversations with their sons and daughters every day. A black mother warns her children to walk with their hands out of their pockets, how to react if pulled over while driving the car, and how to survive in this world in a different manner because of the color of their skin. My son is tracking to be the size of a linebacker, but when I think about our conversation when he leaves the house as a teen, it includes his curfew and how to act, but not a reminder to leave his hoodie down or keep up his guard in certain situations.
What I can talk to my children about is how to walk alongside their friends of color. I can talk to them today about racism and how anti-racism is much more than me choosing to challenge or dismiss a racist comment made in front of my children. I can share with my children that systemic racism is hurting all of us, and that dismantling racism in our communities and ourselves is hard work and it is all of our work. I can commit to working towards a fairer and more just world, and model that by surrounding myself with people who hold me accountable when I miss the mark, have blind spots, or use incorrect language.
Over the past few months, I have had a lot of tough conversations at home, with my neighbors, and at the office. As an agency whose mission is to nurture the development of children by building a strong foundation of family and community, we are talking about racism, anti-racism, implicit bias, and the difference between equality and equity. I am learning more about racism now than I ever learned in school, and as I lean into uncomfortable dialogue, it is clear that we are all coming to these conversations from different places and viewpoints. Despite the differences, we must continue to have this discussion so we can move toward actual change. I know I will make mistakes. I know, because I already have, more than I care to admit.
As we continue to learn, grow, and educate ourselves and others at the Children & Family Resource Center, we are sharing resources on our website including tips for how to talk to your children about race. We have learning kits that celebrate diversity in our Early Learning Center and we are expanding our library of children’s books to include more books with families of color. We are also starting another Equity Café series in August.
Parenting is the hardest job there is and it can be even more challenging depending on your skin color, socio-economic status, and the threat of a global pandemic coming to a home near you. How we react today to what is going on in our country will have long term effects on our children, our future workforce, and our nation.
It is my hope that when my children talk about all the things that took place in 2020, they will remember the conversations we had about social justice, racism, and celebrating differences. Bestselling author Austin Channing Brown recently shared in an interview, “The work of anti-racism is becoming a better human to other humans.” In order for this to happen, we need to lean into the discomfort, have difficult conversations, and take steps toward change.