Tell Your White Children About Their Privileges
White people in the United States have, over the past few months, been waking up to a reality that people of color have long known: systemic racism is still a daily reality, white supremacists are feeling increasingly daring, and white people are inherently privileged.
As adults, many of us are finally trying to catch up by talking to each other about these issues and learning how to be anti-racist , not just “not racist” . But we shouldn’t just discuss these issues with other adults; White parents also need to talk to their white children about their privileges.
Why the conversation should take place
Dr. Erin Palke, assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College , tells me what many of us already know: too many white parents are color blind. That is, if we do not talk to our children about race, children will not notice differences in race, and therefore will grow up to be unbiased adults. The problem is that children notice races from an early age, and they draw their own conclusions about race based on what they see around them.
And families of other races carry on these conversations, even if the white families are not.
“We know that especially in African American families, people talk to children about race, discrimination, preparation for discrimination and the like,” says Palke, whose research focuses on how children and adolescents shape their views of race and gender. “In fact, there is a clear division as to which studies show that depending on the race and ethnicity of the parents, the ways in which they deal with the issue of race with their children. And for many white families, they just don’t solve the problem. ”
It is that lack of talk about race that can send a signal – not about inclusiveness, but this race should not be discussed in their family.
Let’s start with the concepts of fairness and advantage.
Privilege is a fairly abstract concept that many adults have a hard time defining or identifying when they see it, let alone children. But a concept that young children really understand intuitively? Justice concept.
“They care a lot about justice,” says Palke. “So, pointing out examples of injustice and racial involvement in these examples of injustice is a good way to start with children when they are in elementary or high school.”
As children get older, you can move from a concept of fairness to talking about the inherent privilege they receive when they are not treated unfairly, namely that this unfairness creates benefits for whites.
“It’s important to have a conversation about privilege for whites that focuses on unearned benefits,” says Palke. “I think psychologically it can be difficult for people to deal with it. In some ways, it is easier to talk about discrimination than about the associated privileges. But I think it is also important from the point of view of communication with children. “
This does not mean that every achievement of a white person is undeserved, and it does not mean that white people never fight. But it is, as Teaching Tolerance Magazine notes, “a built-in benefit that doesn’t depend on income or effort.” And Tara Brancato, teacher and facilitator of the anti-racism project , explains it to HuffPost as follows :
“We immediately created the privilege of white children: we allow them to be innocent at the expense of someone else’s trauma,” Brancato said. “This is the first undeserved reward that white children receive because of their skin color: they become children first, and white people second. Black children must be both at the same time, regardless of whether their parents want them to remain innocent of their race. “
Point to examples of your own privilege
In these conversations with your children, show them specific examples of the benefits they have. For example, white children have the privilege of studying mostly the history of their race and culture – perhaps with a short break in February to learn a little about black history. White children can easily find dolls with their own skin color, patches to match their body, and a variety of performances in any media they may consume, including TV shows, movies, books, and video games.
White children also have access to better quality education, are less likely to be disciplined in school, and are likely to earn more than their colored peers when they start working.
Perhaps one of the greatest privileges I have as a white parent is that I don’t have to talk to my son about how to stay alive if a police officer approaches him; but I fucking have to (and want to) talk to him about the conversation that parents of color should have with their kids. He needs to understand that being a 10-year-old who doesn’t have to be afraid of meeting with police is a privilege that many of his friends do not have.
If you don’t know where to start on this topic, you can watch this video with your kids:
Current events also provide many examples of white racism and privilege, and we should take this opportunity to point out these. ( A photograph comes to mind of a certain white man who was able to break into the US Capitol building with an almost entirely white crowd, sit at a table in Nancy Pelosi’s office for a photo operation, and then come back alive – just to start.) When you see something timely Illustrating this is the opportunity to re-engage in conversation.
While it’s great to talk about all of this, your actions will always speak louder, especially when it comes to your kids. So, you need to model anti-racist behavior. Speak openly when you witness injustice or hear a racist joke. Donate or participate to organizations that help marginalized groups. Build relationships with different groups of people. And keep recognizing and recognizing your privilege.
And finally, carry on
I have talked to my 10-year-old many times about race and racism over the years. But it was only over the past year that I realized that I needed to start work on educating him not only about the injustice and prevalence of racism, but also about his privileges to be a man in this country.
As someone who grew up in a predominantly white suburb and mostly talked about or learned about racism when it came up in school during Black History Month, I didn’t practice it. I am still studying systemic racism (an education that I expect to last indefinitely). Admittedly, from time to time I stumbled upon my own words, trying to discuss these issues in a way that resonated with my son.
There is no perfect plan here, but you don’t have to be perfect at it – you just have to keep trying. And sometimes, says Palke, a mistake you make in one conversation gives you a good reason to continue the dialogue in another conversation.
“If you say something that isn’t exactly what you meant, or they misinterpreted or something like that, then you can continue the conversation,” she says. “I think part of it has to do with seeing it not as ‘Oh, I have one chance’ … but as an ongoing conversation.”
In addition, she notes, we demonstrate to our children that such conversations in the family are not only normal, they are encouraged.