Speaking With My (Adult) White Kids About Race

Black Lives Matter Sign
Attribution: Andy Witchger

I haven’t been blogging much, partly because I’m back to work at my physical workplace, and it’s honestly kicking my butt. I wrote a funny post about returning to regular employment, but with current events, it seemed not the appropriate time to post it.

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently about speaking with your kids about race and racism. Good! These, of course, are aimed at parents who are still raising their kids. What I want to add is, don’t stop the conversation with them once they’re grown. You might learn as much as you teach.

I’m in my fifties, and both of my kids are in their twenties now. I come from a large family, where there’s a significant age spread among siblings. I think we all strive to overcome our racism, but I had an advantage over the older ones in feeling more comfortable around people of other races, since I attended pretty well-integrated schools throughout my childhood.   It also put it in my face regularly that some kids got harsher punishments than others for the same behaviors, and there was a pattern to it.

I, however, didn’t learn a whole lot of Black history, or much about how systems perpetuate privilege and racism. I didn’t become aware of those things much until I was an adult. I still have more to learn. My kids also attended pretty integrated schools and learned more than I did about cultures and history other than their own. But probably not enough. Well, remove the probably. I talked to them some about race, but probably not enough. Okay, remove the probably, I see in hindsight.

But they’re both educating themselves as adults, too. Much of our conversation these days is about race. And I’ve discovered they have outpaced me in doing research about things like community policing, and good resources, and how to be a better ally. They’re far ahead of where I was at the same age. In my twenties, my goal around race was just not to do or say racist things personally as I went about my life. Very passive. My offspring are much more about being actively anti-racist, and they have helped to bring me along.

With young children, you get difficult questions about why people are doing bad things. With grown kids, we might still discuss things that perplex us, but it’s more of a sharing of ideas and resources, of brainstorming what we can do in our lives.

So, here are some of my intended actions, partly stemming from discussions with my kids. I have found a community bail fund and made a donation. I’m intend to make it a monthly habit. On social media, I will share writings and art by people of color. In my work at a public library, I already have been striving to make sure I present diversity in book displays and blog posts. But sometimes, when I’m in a time crunch, or overwhelmed, I get lazy. And getting lazy when the publishing industry is still overwhelmingly white means the materials I’m promoting are going to skew toward overrepresentation of white voices. I will contact elected officials urging for better laws and policies.

Most of all, I will try to keep listening and learning and doing better. I know my kids will help me out there.

One thought on “Speaking With My (Adult) White Kids About Race

  1. Engaging in conversations about racial equity and all that’s going on right now with my kids is always stimulating, particularly my 17-year-old who is teaching me a whole new vocabulary. Language is powerful. As writers, we know this, we FEEL it. Unraveling complex issues begs language. How can we begin to understand, let alone solve massive, systemic, ingrained cultural wrongs if we can’t name them? I’ve recently found one of the most empowering, activating terms to be anti-racism. The word embodies action, movement, standing up. It’s not enough to be un-racist, we have to be anti-racists. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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