How mothers of mixed-race kids talk to them about racism
Ever since I have married a black man, my views on race and racism have changed a lot.
All the more, after our beautiful mixed-race twin boys came into this world.
Before that, I had thought I knew what black people go through during their lives.
I thought some of them had it harder than others, that some were exaggerating the issue, and that some were being unnecessarily paranoid…
Today I know that my opinions were wrong and rather naive.
How could they not be?
As a white person, I had never remotely come even close to understand what black people have to go through on a daily basis. I am not saying what the majority of black people go through because – as I also only understand now – ALL black people come across hate and racism at more than one occasion in their lives. Regardless of where they now live or the country of birth.
I spoke to my husband but had never really understood why some black people see racist cues in some ordinary comments white people say in from of them.
He explained that frankly, if you live with it your whole life, if you have seen your loved ones suffer or even lose lives because of it, if 1 or 2 out of 10 strangers you talk to do have prejudices but over a constant period of time… Would you not have a right to be affected by this?
A single drop is a drop but over a period of time, it can erode a rock of ages. A certain look when walking along a street, a hand move over your handbag when in close proximity.
Sounds too much? How much does it have to happen to you so that if it happens so often that a black person will wait\expect for it to happen?
If you felt like this over a number of years in your life, grew up with it, expected it, how would you honestly feel? It would hurt and affect any of us.
Another myth a lot of people seem to believe is that the bigger the country, the more multicultural ethnicities, the less racism.
Surely, as a diversed culture, there is more chance of understanding between these different cultures. Sadly more often than not, it’s the opposite.
The bigger the country or the more diversity, the more hate can be witnessed especially in localised areas where it can be so extreme it literally the norm, just the way of life.
Quite sad when you think of it.
It took me a lof time, thinking, and conversations with my husband, but today I know only too well that the day will come when our children will come across racism.
This is something we cannot do anything about. What we can do though is to make sure we raise our children into strong, confident people who are proud of who they are.
So when the time comes and they will come face to face with hate (and they will), but it will not break them and definitely instill that not everyone is like this.
Now, how can we achieve that?
Here are my top personal tips:
1. We don’t sugarcoat the reality
However, scary this might be, we cannot protect our children from life. Once they come across a racist comment, there is no point in pretending or sugar-coating it. Obviously, we have to consider their age, but we need to explain these things to them as soon as they happen.
Personally, I teach my children that only hurt people hurt people. If someone has the need to hurt, they are likely very hurt themselves.
This way, our children have a chance to take a stance of seeing it through the eyes of understanding and compassion. Seeing and understanding it for what it is in that situation, these hurtful comments are a reflection of the person who is being racist as a result of even deeper hurt they are experiencing, or someone pressing on them ideas that they just believed, and definitely not a reflection of who they are because that is something they will know.
2. We make sure they are proud of their heritage
Ever since our boys were born, my husband and I talk to them a lot about Ghana and Slovakia – countries that they are and will always be an inseparable part of who they are. We travel to Slovakia at least twice a year and hopefully, we will soon be able to visit Ghana too. We always want them to be proud of their heritage.
3. We teach them to be proud of who they are
Being “different” is a wonderful thing. Personally, there is nothing more frustrating than being ‘one of the crowd’ or ‘invisible’.
It is all about our perspective, isn’t it? Nothing is objectively good or bad, it is about how we look at it and we do our best to help our children see it in a way that is best for them.
We also aim our focus on raising them into confident, loving, and caring people.
That’s what matters the most, after all. For our children to be good people, who are proud of who they are.
These are my top tips but the list of options definitely doesn’t end here.
I spoke to a few other mums of mixed-race children on how they talk to them about racism.
Here is what they said:
“One thing I never let my children say is “because I am black” I never let being black a reason for anything. If people did not like them that was that person’s loss or they just don’t like them. Once, when my son was very young a black child said to him something about they didn’t get whatever because they were black. I stopped that kind of talk.” – Debbie
“My sons are 6 and 3. I explain many bad things done by others by teaching them that some people are broken in their heads and in their hearts. This way, they are learning that they are not the reason for the bad things others do and say. While they learn that there are not responsible for the bad things others do, they are also learning empathy for others, and that they can be a catalyst for change. – Annie
“I told my kids that biracial children come in every colour. I have one white looking child and I have one olive looking child with the same parents. One looks like Dad one looks like me and both are perfect.” – Shayna
“It depends on the maturity level of the child. I would try positive children’s books on race, interracial families, and diversity. This can help them to get an idea of people who might look different than them. Take one day at a time. And explore your child’s curiosity on this topic. You might be surprised at what you hear.” – Reena
What about you, beautiful?
Do you too speak to your children about racism? If so, what is the main message you pass onto them?
Let me know in the comments! xx