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The recent explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me stop and think about how I can start teaching my white toddlers racism.
I came across a great post on Instagram that explained how early children start to notice skin color and how they use it as a basis to make judgments and it really opened my eyes to that fact that I haven’t done much so far with regard to teaching my toddlers about diversity and racism.
While I’ve never consciously chosen one toy, book, or movie based off of skin color, one quick look around my house opened my eyes to how much diversity was lacking in it.
Disclosure: I am not an expert on this topic, I am just trying to share bits of what I have learned throughout the Black Lives Matter movement, and how we can teach our children to do better. Please feel free to correct anything I’ve described incorrectly via comment or social media.
Why We Need to Teach About Diversity and Racism
I personally grew up “colorblind” and honestly, I’ve always thought that was enough. I never consciously picked one over another based off of color, but what I wasn’t seeing was that in order to create a space inclusive for all, I need to not only see another person’s color but celebrate it and stand up for it.
I feel like with all of the information I’ve soaked up lately, I could go on and on about how living colorblind isn’t the right thing. But the greatest lesson I’ve learned through it all is that the colorblind mentality is nothing but harmful because it causes you to not notice the struggles that POC face due to their color, but specifically Black folx.
Colorblind Kids are Not the Answer
While I have so far been raising my toddlers to live colorblind, it is not the answer for them either. We can’t teach them to stand up for their colored friends or classmates if they aren’t actively noticing the racial comments and stereotypes being discussed.
Kids Notice More Than You Think
The conversations happening with the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement have made me stop and think about my own experience as a child. I don’t remember really noticing differences between myself and classmates until near high school. Likely due to the colorblind mentality. I wasn’t actively looking for any differences until school pushed their inaccurate history books in our faces and I was forced to.
But like mentioned earlier in this post, kids start noticing color very early and unconsciously can use it to make judgements about care takers, friends, and the world. It’s time to drop the colorblind mentality and teach our children the truth about color & the racism that comes with it so we can actively make a change for a better future.
How to Start Teaching Toddlers Racism and Diversity
I have found so many ways to start teaching my white toddlers racism and diversity and how to incorporate them into our everyday lives, but before you can start with them you have to start with yourself.
Start with Yourself
This will be uncomfortable. Sitting with yourself and beginning to really educate yourself on systemic racism and how it has shaped our world is beyond eye-opening. I have started to question my entire life. I’ve felt guilty, angry, sad, and downright stupid all at once. But that is nothing compared to growing up with it all shoved in your face constantly.
A great place to start no matter where you’re at on your journey towards understanding and becoming anti-racist is this doc. It is filled with great resources, books, podcasts, movies, articles, and more all with regard to education about Black history and racism.
Recognizing Unconscious Racial Bias
One of the biggest hurdles for myself, which I think has been ingrained due to my “colorblind” upbringing has to do with unconscious racial bias, or implicit bias. It’s defined as an unintentional, deeply ingrained bias that influences our behavior. A great example is clutching your purse tight when walking past a Black man. It’s not something we as white women might notice per-say, but it’s something we might do. It’s also something most people have, regardless of their defined and expressed core values.
It’s absolutely something to do a bit of research on to grab a better understanding and take a deeper look at yourself along your anti-racism journey.
Introducing our Kids to Diversity and Racism
Once you’ve taken the time to educate yourself a bit on diversity and racism, start introducing it at home through everyday life from here forward. My first step towards teaching my white toddlers racism has been learning how to expose them to color and culture.
Expose Kids to Color and Culture
A great way to start, especially with teaching toddlers about racism, is through providing a culturally diverse setting for them. Do this through the toys and books you buy. Daycare’s you pick out. Food you serve. Experiences you take part in.
Their little minds are so curious and soak everything in like a big sponge. If you’re looking for books and toys, I’ve put together an Amazon list with a bunch of what has been recommended for our littles.
As for movies and TV shows, here are a few great resources:
Then when it comes to food and experiences, take to Pinterest. Pinterest is where I find so many creative ideas, including food and experiences! Make it a weekly mission to serve a new food from a new culture, and even take the night to watch a movie or do some kind of activity highlighting the culture. Explain a bit about them & learn yourself!
Next to incorporating diversity and cultures in your toddler’s lives, begin to encourage conversation around how a persons color plays into how they have been treated throughout history as well as today. Begin to describe stereotypes and microagressions found on major medias, along with an introduction to white privilage.
This might seem like a lot for their young age, but remember, they understand a lot more than we often give them credit for, and encouraging these conversations early will help make them a regular thing in your house. Then as they grow up the conversations will flow on their own.
Simple ways to start might be pointing out unkind behavior by others towards POC. Explain in simple words how the behavior was unkind and how the behavior could hurt the other persons feelings. Then start to add in how they as white children aren’t subjected to the same unkind behavior. Obviously this is in very simple terms, but it is a start towards the more in-depth conversations as they get a bit older.
Teach Kids to Stand Up and Use Their Voice
After the conversations have began, work towards teaching your toddlers confidence and how to stand up for others. While they’re learning what unkind behaviors look and sound like, odds are they’ll start to pick them up during their every day life.
Ways to encourage your kiddos to be confident might include:
- Letting them problem solve (I know it’s frustrating, but let them do it mama)
- Celebrate their efforts
- Encourage their curiosity
- Give them some level of responsibility
Basically, encourage behaviors that help them feel proud of themselves and celebrate those moments. This will help them learn to trust themselves and demonstrate that trust through confident behaviors, which circles back to standing up for their peers.
When they feel confident in themselves and their words, they’ll feel strong enough to stand up for what is right and we desperately need more of that in this world. We need to raise kinds who are able to (respectfully) call out others on their unkind, racist behaviors. This is very important when it comes to raising anti-racist kids.
Lead by Example
Finally, you have got to lead by example. They follow in your footsteps. If they see you letting Grandpa make a comment about the Black man on TV, they’ll believe that is OK behavior until someone tells them it is not. Correct others. No matter how uncomfortable it might be.
This goes beyond using your voice in public situations, though. This comes back to the experience you’re providing as a whole. Look at where you live, friends you have, church you go to, stores you shop at, charities you give to. Look at every section of your life. Who is it filled with? These are things you actively have to look for, at least at first. Everything your life involves, your children experience as well.
Surround them and yourself with people who don’t look like you. Who have different experiences and different lifestyles. These things I’ve mentioned will hopefully lead our littles to form a different future. One with true inclusion.
One last thing, don’t let this overwhelm you. It easily could. I was very overwhelmed until I sat down and looked myself in the mirror and told myself that this is a lifelong commitment. This won’t be fixed in a single day or week. This is a promise for life. And we can do this. We just have to work together. We just have to start somewhere, and teaching my white toddlers racism is a key factor in where I am starting to do better for the future.[instagram-feed]