A Letter to My Young Children about Racism
I watched you playing in the backyard today, giggling without a care as you soaked each other with the hose. Mercifully, you are oblivious to the turmoil and heaviness that hangs over our country today. At four and almost two years old, you are too young to comprehend the violent events that unfolded this month in Charlottesville. At least today, for that I am thankful. I’m thankful because I’m having a hard time processing those events myself.
This is not the world I expected to be raising you in. I never dreamed that violent, torch-bearing Nazis would be on the list of threats I’d need to worry about. I never imagined I would be leery of letting you watch the President of the United States speak on television. And yet, here we are. I wonder, how did we get here? But more importantly, what do we need to do to change? Because we MUST change. I refuse to stand by and let you grow up in a society that normalizes racism and white supremacy.
I’m just a mom, but I’m your mom. I don’t have a huge platform, but for a few years, YOU are my captive audience. And if I’m going to do something to change the world, I want it to be by raising strong, confident children who are not afraid to be loud, disruptive, and outspoken about what is RIGHT.
YOU CANNOT BE SILENT ABOUT RACISM.
I’m going to teach you that there are a lot of grey areas in life. You’ll need to learn nuance, and to consider other’s experiences and points of view when making moral judgements. Racism is not one of these areas. There is no grey. You pick a side.
You are going to be confronted with racism. It’s not an if, it’s a when. And I hope that my example will teach you that racism, no matter how slight, is unacceptable. You don’t let it slide. Ever.
You will have friends who don’t look like you. I will make sure of it. You aren’t colorblind, and you will notice the differences. Differences are not just tolerable, they are wonderful. People look differently, act differently, and live differently, and that’s GREAT! We don’t learn and grow when we aren’t challenged by and exposed to diversity.
The hard part about all this is that standing up for what is right isn’t always going to be the popular thing to do. You may be laughed at, or talked about behind your back. You may even lose some friends. I’m not going to say, and that’s ok, because it’s not. It hurts, a lot. I’ve been there. But the hurt caused by racism hurts oppressed people a lot worse and for a lot longer.
To tell you the truth, I’m scared. You won’t always be four and two, and sooner than later, you’ll be out in the world, making your own decisions and being influenced by people other than me. And the world can be so cruel. Because of the color of your skin, you won’t face some of the oppression that your friends of other races will. That’s called white privilege, and it’s real. A lot of people don’t understand privilege and will try to tell you it doesn’t exist. Privilege doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges or have to work really hard in life. It means that you won’t face the specific obstacles or hardships that people of other races face due to systemic racism and oppression. You don’t need to feel guilty about your white privilege, but you do need to be aware of it and always be an ally and condemn any and all racism that your friends experience. It’s going to be scary, but you are brave. That’s what being brave means: doing the right thing even though you’re scared.
I know there’s going to be some tough conversations in our future and you are going to have some hard questions about the reality of the world you are growing up in. The truth is, there are some really evil people with some really terrible beliefs. And sometimes, they do terrible things because of those beliefs. And our only hope in stopping them is to prevent them from feeling like they can get away with those things. Again, stand up, act, and be loud. Hate will not win.