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Oct15ThuMake sure you talk to your kids about racial inequality. October 15, 2020 by Captain Bhreagh Rowe
When my oldest son was three or so, he had a Playmobil set that he just loved. It came with two police officers—one white and one Black. As parents, we never thought anything about it. We didn’t buy the toy with the intention of teaching him about different skin colours. He liked it and that was that.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
One day, Maverick lost one of the police officers and was upset. I asked which one was missing, and he described it in detail— black hair, a hat, sunglasses and a yellow belt—but he never once mentioned the skin colour.
I was so proud. My son doesn’t see colour, I remember thinking and telling others. I was happy, and felt as though I’d done something right, since so much of what our kids grow up to believe comes from us as parents.
Two years have passed, and I’ve learned just how damaging that pride can be. I’ve never talked about race with my kids. I’ve never told them about racism or injustices due to skin colour or culture. I thought I didn’t have to bring it up unless they asked, or I saw some sort of inappropriate behaviour. Why? Because my kids do not see skin colour and that’s enough, right?
I was wrong.
If we believe our children are colourblind, we ignore the patterns of racial inequality entrenched in our society. As a white mom, I watched my children play, carefree, while Black moms suffered anxiety about their sons growing into Black men in a culture that whitewashes its racial biases. As a white parent, I went to sleep every night knowing that I taught my boys to be respectful and love everyone, like Jesus, while I continued to participate, unknowingly, in advancing this inequality.
Being prideful of my colour-blind children was wrong. So, what can we do?
1. We need to start getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations, no matter what age our children are. One of the things my white privilege gives me is the luxury to avoid this conversation with my boys. However, our kids are living in a racially unjust society and can see that for themselves. If we try to raise them to be colour-blind, they won’t know how to talk about their experiences. Have the conversation. Talk about different skin colours. Ask if they have seen anyone treated unfairly. Encourage them to speak out against injustice.
2. We need to teach kids about their own identity. Because of this colourblind ideology, we forget that teaching kids about their racial identity is the right thing to do. No matter what colour our skin is, we are all made in the image and likeness of God. It’s OK to talk about our heritage, culture and tradition, I promise. In fact, both you and your kids will be better for it. It will help them learn and appreciate that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by an intentional Creator. Don’t miss out on this rich and meaningful lesson.
3. Step out of your own colourblindness as an adult. We need to learn about the issues ourselves. Children can spot a fake a mile away; don’t let your uncomfortable conversations be ruined with a lack of knowledge. Recognize that we need to see colour and then listen and learn. Are you— either knowingly or unknowingly— teaching your kids to be racist simply because of your lack of knowledge?
In Canada, we sometimes sit back and shake our heads at what’s happening in the United States, thinking “it’s just not the same here.” Do your research. Read about the Indigenous residential schools or the Chinese head tax, to name just two. Then move past these limiting beliefs and acknowledge that we serve a brown-skinned Saviour, who humbled himself to death because of his love for the whosoever. Simply believing that statement to be true is not enough. We must also act justly. We must learn. We must acknowledge our faults and then step into the situation to “fight—fight to the very end.”
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the community ministries officer at St. Albert Church and Community Centre in Edmonton.