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How to talk to kids about racial tensions
If racism is learned, then tolerance can be also. - photo by Erin Stewart
One of the ideas that has preoccupied me this week after the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots is the idea that children are not born racist.

And if racism is learned, then tolerance can be also.

That idea has stuck with me as Ive thought about how to address the rising racial tensions with my children. My husband and I are white, our two daughters are white and we live in a predominantly white area. Other than our adopted son, who is of Mexican descent, our girls are not exposed to a lot of different races on a daily basis.

So as I watched the news reports of the riots and the hate coming from racist groups, it was a good wake-up call that living in a nondiverse area doesnt mean I dont have to teach my children about things like white privilege and racism.

If anything, it means I need to talk about it even more. So, Ive been putting together my game plan of how to approach the topic with my kids.

First, I want my children to know the facts. I want them to know the history of our country, and the history of race relations in America. I want them to be well-versed in times when people of all races and genders stood up and said no to racism and inequality. I want my children to be proud of this national heritage and be inspired to continue to stand up for voices and people who arent always heard.

Second, I want my children to understand white privilege. I dont want them to feel ashamed or embarrassed or personally at fault for racial tensions. But I do want them to understand that they need to use their privilege to speak up for others who cannot. My hope is that they will be aware of things they take for granted because of the color of their skin, and likewise aware of other children who dont have the same luxury.

Third, I want my children to feel personally invested in this fight. I want them to understand that they can affect change in a very real way in their small sphere of influence. How they treat others can change the world, at least for someone.

Finally, I want my children to feel comfortable talking about race issues. I hope they ask questions. I hope they engage. I hope they feel anger and outrage and concern about the future of our country, and that they will stand up for whats right. That they will be willing to declare unabashedly that we will never abide such hate.

Of all the things I want to teach my children, its to speak up because their voices have power, and if they choose to stay silent, that choice speaks just as loud.
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