Do you want your kids to grow up to be colorblind, or do you want them to be anti-racist? There is a difference. A lot of well-meaning white parents are unwittingly raising their kids to be colorblind racists rather than anti-racists. Here are some do’s and don’ts for parents of white kids.
Do teach them that race is a silly idea people made up. Don’t teach them race doesn’t matter.
Do put them in environments that will show them they are white. Don’t discourage their questions and explorations when they begin to realize this.
Do expose them to race through the rhythms and structures of their daily lives. Don’t expose them to race through contexts of charity and pity.
Do teach them race as a product of history. Don’t teach them race as a product of biology.
Do teach them to value other cultures. Don’t let their own culture be normal or invisible.
Do teach them that racism is about power and resources. Don’t teach them that an absence of racial prejudice in their hearts makes them anti-racist.
Do teach them that they have advantages because of their race. Don’t teach them that everyone has equal opportunities.
Do teach them that race profoundly affects them. Don’t teach them that race is something only people of color have or deal with.
Do teach them the history of white supremacy. Don’t sacrifice historical accuracy to protect feelings of patriotism or white innocence.
Do teach them to take responsibility. Don’t teach them to feel guilty.
Each of these can be unpacked and reflected on. Many well-meaning white parents have their own issues to work through before they can instill these things in their kids. What do you do when your kids take note of race? Do you subtly send the message that you’re uncomfortable and don’t want to talk about it? Or are you equipping them to understand that what they see is a result of history and power and that they have the responsibility to fight against racism?
Many good parents struggle with these things and are accidentally training their children to misunderstand their world. But we can learn and do better. On any other issue, we can readily admit we’re not perfect parents. But for some reason we want to pretend we have never ever instilled negative racial messages in our children. I’m sure I have. There’s no need to feel defensive or guilty.
Now, if you’re a parent who thinks white people don’t have advantages and this is all liberal gibberish, that’s a different story. You’re actively harming your children and you need to reckon with why and how you came to depend upon lies to make yourself feel ok in the world. It is much more liberating to face the truth.