No parent wants their kids to experience racism. But, for biracial children, it’s reality. This can be a particularly touchy subject for white parents who never experienced racism. Perhaps we’d like to think we can protect our children from these experiences, or worse, we just wish it would go away. Whatever your case, and no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel, the unfortunate reality is that biracial children often experience racism.
What’s even worse than experiencing racism is experiencing it and not knowing what to do about it. So, even if your child hasn’t come home telling stories about kids getting bullied, or has reported that they’ve been a target of racism themselves, it’s a topic you should discuss regularly in your home.
Racism Is on the Rise
While racism isn’t what it used to be during the Civil Rights movement, there have been upticks in the number of racially motivated crimes and incidents across the country, especially in schools. Regardless of your political beliefs, the election has had an influence on bias incidents, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). What’s especially important to note here is that the most common place of these bias incidents was in the K-12 setting. For parents, this is certainly concerning, as our children spend a significant portion of their day at school.
What Can You Do?
There are many things you can do to prepare your child to face these incidents, or to help the if they’ve already experienced or participated in a form of racial bullying. Here are some steps you should take:
1. Talk about race
If you haven’t spoken with your child about race yet, it’s time. Usually you can let these conversations come up naturally as your child grows, but if your child is already in school and you haven’t broached the subject yet, it’s an important conversation to have. First, talk about different skin colors, and how there is a beautiful variety of colors of skin and types of people around the world.
Then, you can explain that some people think that they’re better than others because of the color of their skin. Without making anyone into a monster, it’s important that your child understand that this is wrong, racism is wrong. At the same time, don’t try to erase race. Tell your child an age appropriate account of racism in history to explain how it has affected many people, and some people want to continue to exercise power over others because of their race. Also, make it clear that it’s not your child’s fault if someone acts racist towards them.
Depending on the age of your child, you may want to discuss their feelings about race and their background. Allow your child to express themselves.
2. Make a plan and practice
Your child should feel confident enough to defend themselves at school. One helpful exercise is to practice saying “no!” or “stop!” You can play that you’re another child and you get too close to your child. Your child can practice saying a strong “no!” with their voice and body language. It doesn’t mean you have to say hateful things to your child, just explain that if it happens, they can say “no.” Also teach your child that they can advocate for others in this way also.
A good part of the plan should also include telling the teacher, and you, their parent later on.
3. Get involved at school
If you hear about an incident, make sure the school knows you’re aware of it and expect follow-up. If possible, get involved in a program that aims to prevent these types of situations to occur in the first place. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even before you hear about any incidents happening at your child’s schools, ask about diversity and tolerance programs and how you can get involved. Bullying is known to diminish when there’s greater adult presence, so if you can volunteer your time for recess or other less structured parts of the day, this may help as well.
4. Teach kindness and diversity at home
Finally, make sure that in addition to discussing race at home, you also teach kindness and diversity. Learn about different people from around the globe as a cultural geography project. Try new foods from different countries and watch foreign films. Make a special focus on your family’s own diverse background. Talk about all of your child’s heritage and roots. You may even find yourself creating a family tree together or learning about ancestor’s customs.
Also, try to teach kindness by making it a family project. Give food to the local food bank, or volunteer. If you give your child an allowance, encourage them to donate a portion of it to a charity of their choice. Talk about being inclusive of other people during play and encourage your child to be kind to others.
5. Get help for your Biracial Children
If your child is really struggling with a race related incident or issue at school and things aren’t getting better, seek help. Should there be a problem that the school isn’t addressing, you can contact other authorities including the police and the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. In addition, get help for your child in the form of therapy or visits with the school counselor. Seek further resources for yourself as your child’s advocate as well. Remember, your role in this is important as you support your child.
Racism is scary to face as an adult, and even scarier for children. Ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away. Rather, we must face it head-on along with our children in hopes that one day, racism will be cut out of society all together. Until then, we must teach our children how to respond to it. ~Rachel Peachy
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