White supremacy, white nationalism, nazism, alt-right – these terms are all over the news and our kids are hearing it. Violent, racist rallies are popping up all over emboldened by the US president’s tacit support of these events.
But what about Vancouver? Within days of the Charlottetown events, a white supremacist group announced its own local rally. That’s how quick these virulent events spread. Vancouverites were appalled and organized a counter rally.
While we all want to believe we live in a post-racist, multicultural fusion utopia, it’s plain to see that racism is alive and well. So how do we talk to our kids about race and racism without scaring them or getting overly complex?
How to talk about racism with your kids and be an ally for people of colour
Have a conversation with your kids
Here are some things parents can say: “There are people in the world who hate other people. Some people don’t like others who look or act differently from them based on skin colour, dress or accents.”
Familiarize your children with the symbols of hatred so they can be aware and stay safe: The Nazi flag, the swastika, the KKK hood.
Introduce your kids to things that racists feel threatened by: hijabs, men holding hands, people with brown skin, men with turbans or women in saris or head dresses.
Emphasize that difference and diversity is what makes Canada strong and vibrant and wonderful. It’s who we are and no one can take that from us.
Bring diversity into your family life
Take a look at your coffee shop, dinner table, your neighbourhood, your school, your playground, your children’s friends. Look at your Facebook feed: Do you see faces of colour, immigrant voices, people with differing viewpoints? Do you talk to people who are different from you at your child’s school. Do you interact with your neighbours? Do you welcome and embrace people who are different from you? Is difference a part of your norm? Obviously, if the answers are no, it’s time to take those small steps to broaden your social circles.
What kids can do
All kids especially white children need to be allies for kids of colour. If they hear mean things (or racial slurs) spoken, they need to stand up and support those kids, whether it’s on the playground, at school and on the street. The bullied child may be shaken, so white children need to step in to help not stand idly by.
Here are some things an ally can say to help:
- I’m so sorry that happened to you. How can I help you?
- Let’s go find an adult.
- Let’s leave now.
- Do you want me to simply listen or do you also want advice?
- Thank you for trusting me.
- You are not alone.
Stand up to racism at all times
If you are not a person of colour, it’s easy to stay silent or let things slide, but you must be vigilant and speak up to family and friends, attend rallies, cultural festivals and parades, reach out to your neighbours, and keep Vancouver a place where everyone feels safe and everyone belongs.
Do you have tips, strategies, viewpoints or experience? Please email [email protected]
Thanks to Catharine Marshall and tolerance.org for providing me with many of these strategies and tips.