Talking to your Kids about White Privilege


I am white. They say that the definition of being white is never having to think about it. Touché. When I take my daughter to a movie, grab a toy at Target, or pick up a book, I never worry whether her race or perspective will be represented. I don’t check the box to see if any of the little girls look like her. When I borrow books – stories of heroines and adventures – I never fear that she will feel excluded from the strengths and opportunities of the lead character. I benefit from the assumption that her race will always be represented, that she will always feel included in the American Dream. This is an example of White Privilege, and it’s past time that we talk to our children about it.

The problem, I suppose, is that many parents are scared. It’s hard to decide where or when to begin. It is even harder to know what to say once you start. In fact, most parents say nothing, assuming that if they are silent, their children will come to believe that race is unimportant. But as long as people’s skin color is associated with access to resources, social rewards, and the power to shape norms and values, race matters. The research tells us, and the testimony of heartbreak emphasizes, that we have to put aside sanguine “color-blind” language and talk to our kids about tough stuff. The American Journal of Sociology reports that it is actually the children of parents who talk to their kids about race that are less likely to make assumptions about others based on skin color. Privilege matters, and if we never show our white kids how to identify it and take it seriously, they will never change it. Was it Spiderman who taught us that with great privilege comes great responsibility?

I made an easy little conversation primer for talking to your kiddos about race. If you sign up for my newsletter, you will get access to a download of it. It’s cute, you’ll like it (I actually think it would make a nice picture book). But in the meantime, help your kids notice the way our society systematically excludes their friends of color. Encourage empathy, encourage them to be better. Point out that all her princesses are white except for one. Ask her how that might make a her black friends feel. Next time you buy bandaids, point out that all the “flesh color” bandaids are actually just the color of her skin. “Gosh, thats silly. Half of us in this country are dark or brown, and yet there aren’t bandaids that match. Isn’t that sad?” See if she can find a greeting card with a black person on it. Check out books and movies with Latin or African American leads. Take your children to cross-racial churches, schools, parks.

Just jump in there. I certainly am, and I feel like I flop way more than I succeed, but I have to believe that I am communicating that I want the imbalance remedied. I love Motherlode’s account of this process. Hopefully, we are teaching our children how to notice. Model a just and fair attitude. Just the other day, I made a list of 15 super cute books from @hereweeread and @afrobookworm’s feeds that featured kids with black or brown skin color. My library co-op had 2. I was disappointed, I asked to speak with the head librarian and we had a sincere talk about my concerns. Use your power. Too often, when black people complain about racial injustice, they are labelled and disregarded. As a white person, when you notice, say something, first to the people in charge, and then to your kids. Help them help others. Other AWESOME posts about this: HuffPo, OnBeing, AllParenting, 100 Race Conscious Things You Can Say to your Children

In what ways are you helping your kids notice privilege and be responsible? How are you dedicated to being vigilant for teachable moments? talking about white privilege

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