Confident Black Kids Never Argue with A Racist
Tell your kids:
No matter how vocal and active you are, there are just some people who will never accept that systemic racism and implicit bias are issues in this day and age. You can run yourself ragged trying to convince a bigot that he or she is bigoted, and the only thing that will accomplish is that you’ll wear yourself out fighting a losing battle. It’s not your job to convince the world that Black Lives Matter. Some people cannot be swayed no matter how persuasive the arguments you provide them.
Rather than providing racists with research, point them in the right direction, and let them research the issue themselves. If they aren’t willing to put in the legwork to educate themselves, they simply aren’t interested in learning. There is only so much you can do with people who are willfully ignorant.
Do answer questions. People are capable of change, but they need to show a willingness to learn. It may be awkward for them at first. Be patient, but suggest they talk to other people of color so you aren’t alone in trying to sway someone. A person is more likely to see the other side if they have more than one resource to rely on. Suggest that they step out of their comfort zone and just listen to what is being said.
But put your energy toward community alliances and group efforts. It’s okay not to win every debate.
How to Fight Systemic Racism:
• Test yourself! I suggested earlier in this book taking one of the implicit bias tests created by a consortium of scholars at the University of Washington, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia. These tests (there are several) measure your unconscious bias toward other people of different races, ethnicities and religions. You may discover that you have some hidden biases of your own to be mindful of. The tests can be found at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. Encourage your child to take the test as well and discuss the results together.
• Speak up! If you see (or are the victim of) overt racism and it is safe to do so, say something. Challenge racist behavior. Encourage your child to speak up as well (but, again, only when it’s safe for them to do so).
• Defend democracy. Attend protests and town hall meetings where racism is a central concern. If you can afford to, support local and regional bail bond funds that help provide legal assistance to demonstrators who are arrested while exercising their civil rights.
• Learn anti-Black history. There are a number of documentaries and podcasts available for you to watch and listen to, including Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, available on Netflix. Or listen and read The 1619 Project, available on the web. (The project has become controversial, and the controversy itself is quite fascinating.) Knowing about the early days of systemic racism in the country will help you (and your child) put in context what is happening today.
• Know your rights. And defend them. Check out the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other organizations that work to protect civil liberties. Demand action by contacting your local leaders, but don’t stop there. Contact your representatives in Congress and the Senate. Sign petitions. Vote with your conscience.
• Challenge the notion of color-blindness. Color-blindness actually makes racism worse, because it rests on the supposition that all races are treated equally. While it may be true that we are all equal, we are not treated equally, and colorblindness just creates an excuse for people to overlook inequity when it’s apparent.
• Find out if your work or school district has programs to help minorities thrive. If they don’t exist, work to develop a program for mentorship.
• Put your money where your mouth is. Join the boycott of companies that don’t actively fight for equal justice. Spend your money at Black-owned businesses, and, if you can, support organizations that work to fight systemic racism.
Teach all of this to your children. The best way to fight systemic racism is by teaching the next generation about how pervasive and insidious it is.
-- A creator of safe spaces, and an initiator of difficult conversations, M.J. Fievre, B.S. Ed, spent much time building up her Black students, helping them feel comfortable in their skin, and affirming their identities. Her close relationships with parents and students led her to look more closely at how we can balance protecting our child’s innocence with preparing them for the realities of Black life. When―and how―do you approach racism with your children? How do you protect their physical and mental health while also preparing them for a country full of systemic racism? She began to research the issue and speak to school counselors and psychologists to find (and apply!) strategies parents and teachers can use with their children to broach uncomfortable but necessary topics.
M.J. is the author of Badass Black Girl, a daily dose of affirmations for Black Girls
“You'll come away from Badass Black Girl feeling as if you've known the author your entire life, and it's a rare feat for any writer.” ―“Mike, the Poet,” author of Dear Woman and The Boyfriend Book
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Affirmations for strong, fearless Black girls. Wisdom from Badass Black female trailblazers who accomplished remarkable things in literature, entertainment, education, STEM, business, military and government services, politics and law, activism, sports, spirituality, and more.
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