6 Ways Any Parent or Child can Stop Racism

6 Ways Any Parent or Child can Stop Racism

Have you heard about the Black Panther movie? Black Panther is an upcoming Marvel Comic release that I am excited to see. As I researched the movie I learned about a Go Fund Me campaign that was started to give underprivileged and underserved children in Harlem an opportunity to see the movie. The campaign was started by Frederick Joseph with a goal of raising $10,000 which would go toward purchasing tickets and refreshments for the children and their chaperones. Any donations exceeding the cost would be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem. Within 10 days the campaign had tripled its original goal with more than 700 people donating[1]. Frederick Joseph said his intent in starting this campaign was to give young people an opportunity to see themselves in a story, and in particular a story that Clarkisha Kent of TheRoot.com writes, “remains socially and culturally relevant because it imagines a world where black people continually triumph over the influences of capitalism, Western imperialism and white supremacy[2].” To this date, Frederick Joseph’s campaign has raised $43,367. The latest update shared that through the generosity of Ellen DeGeneres and her team paying for the entire event, all donations would be given to the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem where a new program will be created that teaches children to critically consume content and create their own stories. The new program will be called the BGC Harlem Storytellers.[3]

So how does this relate to redeeming the race narrative?

I would respond to that question with this question: have you ever wondered why prejudice, discrimination, and the ethnic divides in our society still exist? Studies as recent as 2017 show that millennials, the generation applauded as being “aware” and different than those that went before them, are actually divided on the same ethnic, discrimination, justice and opportunity issues as their parents and other generations before them. When categorized as African-American, Latino, Asian and white these groups showed the same divisions and preferences as polls taken in the past. This reality shows that unity cannot be accomplished via a trend. It can never be popular enough where one generation automatically falls into it. Change does not happen without intentionality.

We wouldn’t assume our children will have a strong foundation of belief in God by chance. There is a reason we follow Proverbs 22:6 in training up our children in the way they should go (The Bible, NASB Translation). There is a reason God said to the Israelites “fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, The Bible, NIV Translation). It is clear that consistent intentionality in teaching children the “way they should go” is essential in building up their identity in Christ. We teach our children who God is so they can know who they are. But sometimes we focus so much on the fact that we are not of the world, that their identity is in Christ, that we forget we are still in the world. The societal issues of this age influence and impact us.

Creating change via children is no small effort or impact, especially when we realize that prejudice is not a biological tendency – it is learned[4]. A research study published in Psychology Today shared that a child’s awareness of race and racial identity is present as early as three years of age[5]. By the tender ages of 3-4 children can already show preferences toward one particular race. The rationale that a child is color blind and will have no bias in choosing friends or in how they treat others perceived as different from themselves is false.[6] Children’s biases occur as a child notices differences in others and recognizes that these differences determine how people are treated. This suggests that children also notice these differences determine how their loved ones (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) respond to others; whether it be with nervousness, discomfort, confidence, ease, or even forced comfortability. A child observes difference, creates value judgements, and acts on the judgements they make.

A researcher named Banaji in a study published by the Boston Globe states, “the odds of aging children losing or at the very least lessening their bias against out-group people are only increased… when responsible adults in their lives consciously place their children in a position to see different groups interacting as equals[7]”. “As equals” is a significant element to stress. Often when we bring children to different contexts they see one group of people helping another, or one group that is not in a position to do as much as another. Though it is good to show our children the importance of giving, helping, and kindness, if they only see a particular group in a certain context it is natural for them to believe all people of that group are part of that context. “It is not the fault of the children, Banaji states, that they grow up to see a majority of power and influence concentrated among one race [group]. So if we don’t act in their lives, as they age, to show context to that imbalance, they may continue to believe that one group is better or worse than the other, based on nothing more than color, features, or expressions”[8]. This explains so much of the perpetual division we see between people groups. How are generations able to change their engagement with one another if the preceding generation simply cannot give them the tools to do so? You cannot give what you do not have. If it is difficult or intimidating to speak with others different from you about socio-ethnic issues, let alone maintain healthy, close, equal friendships, how can your child be expected to develop this skill?

It is also important to equip children to deal with prejudice and discrimination. Children are most equipped when they have language and examples to directly address it. The most deconstructive instruction can be to “just ignore it” – ignoring can translate into powerlessness. It is necessary for parents and role models to show examples of how to directly address issues of prejudice and discrimination. It is also significant, per the Black Panther movie campaign example, to surround children with a fair representation of different people. I recognize this is not possible for everyone based on geographic location, etc. But that leads to my next point, you can find examples of role models and achievers who look like your children in the age of the internet. The ultimate question is: are we engaging our children at their appropriate age level regarding general differences and even specific socio-ethnic controversies? Here are some questions that serve as a basic litmus test for discerning our children’s (and our own) depth of understanding on differences and the ability to engage them:

  1. Do our children know that biological races do not exist?
  2. Do they see white as the standard or norm?
  3. Have they been exposed to different faces and cultures (including their own) through teaching tools such as children’s books or shows?
  4. Can they speak comfortably about people’s differences, and their differences from other people, without attempting to downplay or belittle them?
  5. Do they see consistent examples of leaders and world-changers who do and do not look like them?
  6. Most importantly, do they see parents and/or mentors set a positive example by having meaningful, equal interactions with people who are different from them?

We teach our children the Bible, show them examples of living the Christian faith, and surround them with a community of believers (even if that is not all of who they interact with). We do this because we recognize if they do not see models of faith in Christ it will be harder if not impossible for them to walk out their faith in Christ, especially when it is challenged. Why would we not give the same intentionality to teach our children to walk not in uniformity but in unity?

Do you have insights, recommendations, agree or disagree with this podcast? Go to my website: ebonyramquist.com to leave comments and check out the lyrical lessons and additional resources I have provided for you on this topic.

Grace, Peace and Mercy brothers and sisters.

 

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/10/entertainment/iyw-black-panther-gofundme-trnd/index.html

[2] https://www.theroot.com/wakanda-forever-on-the-importance-of-black-panther-1820459283

[3] https://www.gofundme.com/help-children-see-black-panther

[4] Boston Globe, Racism Learned, James H. Burnett III, June 10th 2012

[5] Bailey-Fakhoury, Chasity. Navigating, Negotiating, and Advocating: Black Mothers, their Young Daughters, and -White Schools. Michigan Family Review, Volume 18, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 57-79

 

[6] Psychology Today,” Are Kids Racist?”, Kristina R. Olson, Ph.D., April 2013

[7] Boston Globe, Racism Learned, James H. Burnett III, June 10th 2012

[8] Boston Globe, Racism Learned, James H. Burnett III, June 10th 2012

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