Is it Better to Protect their Innocence of Talk about Racism?
“My children are Biracial….wait do I need to do something?” A recently published blog received a lot of positive feedback and stirred some controversy. Most parents of biracial kids do agree that we have some challenges that other parents do not have. Our kids will face questions and judgments about their identity, their hair, their skin tone, their heritage. In my opinion, we have a responsibility to prepare them for this. Many parents talk about racism and current events with their children.
We also receive some negative feedback. Some parents feel that they should be raised as any other single race child and there should not be any difference in parenting. Hmmm…I don’t think so. If simply loving our child was enough that would be true. I would agree that parental love is the number one thing that is needed for a child to have a good childhood.
As any parent of color knows, our children have to face a world out there that is full of both acceptance and nonacceptance. It’s full of love and hate, kind people and bullies. Any parent has a responsibility to teach their child how to navigate through it all. A parent of a biracial child or any child of color for that matter has the added responsibility to teach their child how to navigate a world that oftentimes judges them first on their color and then their abilities and attributes.
Some of the feedback included comments such as, “why ruin their innocence?” I don’t think anyone wants to ruin their child’s wide eyed innocence, but sometimes it is necessary. For instance, even though we don’t want to introduce our child to sexuality too soon, it is important to tell your child that others are not supposed to touch certain parts of their body. I know I didn’t want to talk to my son about improper touching when he was four years old but I had to.
As they get older, it’s even more important to talk about race
One of my friends has a biracial daughter and her daughter is taller and larger-boned than her skinnier, more petite White friends. She’s a preteen and her friends do silly things that kids do that could get them into trouble if caught. She didn’t elaborate what these things are but all of us did stuff we shouldn’t have when we were that age. Anyways, she said she told her daughter that she cannot get away with the things that her friends do, that her size and skin color would make her stand out. Also that things that White kids can get away with as a “right-of-passage,” can land a black or biracial child in trouble. She’s smart to tell her this.
As an example, over the summer there was a viral video of things going awry at a teen pool party. The whole thing was handled poorly but, what stood out to me was the fact that there were a lot of both White and Black kids at the party but pretty much all the White kids and some of the Black kids were able to get away from the scene while pretty much all the kids that were detained were Black. So when this incident was over those detained kids would have some type of mark on the record when they were doing nothing more than the kids that got away.
I remember reading an account of a mother that came home from work one day to see her 5’10 inch, innocent 12-year-old son, crouched behind the bushes with a toy gun, playing cops and robbers with the neighborhood boys. She knew in that instant that she would have to have the talk with him. She didn’t want to have the conversation, and if her son was White, she probably wouldn’t even think to do so. She knew that her son, although young in years, had grown in size, and could very easily be mistaken for a grown Black man with a gun crouched behind the bushes and his life could be in jeopardy. Neglecting to tell her brown skinned, biracial son that he has a right to self-identify however he wants to, but that society will see him as a Black person and treat him as such, is irresponsible.
If you’re still not convinced, take a few minutes to watch this excellent video showing what happened when one mother of a biracial teen just never thought to talk to him about race. She is a good mother that loved her son but she never had the talk and he was totally unprepared for a racially charged experience he encountered.
It’s not a bad thing that a mother wants to protect her child’s innocence. Mothers of Black, White and Biracial children all want the same thing for our children: For them to live in peace and harmony, for them to be able feel loved and respected, and pursue their God given talents. However, sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that racism does not exist, does not help them. It hurts them. It’s much better to prepare them for the world that they will actually live in than to try to completely protect them from it, because, honestly, you can’t.
So talk about racism, talk about current events, talk about how it should be, and how it was. Know that even if you don’t talk about racism, your kids still see and have to process these things.
They will come up with their own way of interpreting them. They may come to hate a race of people, or hate themselves, or think of themselves as better than another race, etc. In other words, they will come up with someway of coping and making sense of it all with or without your input. Wouldn’t you rather put in your two cents? ~Reggie
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