The topic of racism is hot in the media right now all over the world and I believe that this is something that we need to bring to the attention of our children. As a white mother living in South Africa it is my duty as a parent to teach my kids about racism. Yes there activists trying to make a difference and there are protests but the real change is going to come about when our children do things differently to the way that we have done things and to the way that things have been done in the past.
This is a topic that I have wanted to cover for a long time and I am so pleased that Keri-Lee Stroebel and Laura-kim le Roux were both able to join me live on Facebook and Youtube to discuss this with me.
Please note that I am aware of the live guest that popped in and out to say “white power” – I did not catch what was said during the live video, I only caught it when I watched the video later when writing this post. It is upsetting, but honestly not that surprising. This is exactly the ugly and nasty behaviour we are trying to stop through teaching our children the right way to behave.
***Disclosure -The links in this post may contain affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on a link.***
Introduction To Live Guests
Keri-Lee was a professional freelance digital marketer but decided that she no longer wanted to do that anymore and she has started baking. She got involved in social activism and social justice about four years ago when she entered Mrs South Africa and she realized that there was a lot that she wanted to talk to the youth about.
She got involved with the South African Council for Business Women and became a speaker for the South African Anxiety and Depression Association and she is now very active in the racism space. She is also a theater actress and involved in many different things.
I can’t remember how or when I met Keri-Lee but I became friends with her on Facebook a few years back and I follow what she is up to and all the (very often heated) discussions online.
Laura-kim le Roux
Laura-Kim blogs at Harassed Mom – she is a mom of four, two teenagers, a nine year old and a six year old. She also runs an online digital marketing agency that helps small businesses with their social media.
Her two teenagers are people of colour which means that racism is something her family has had to live with and something she was not expecting as a white mother. Her sixteen year old daughter is a Black Lives Matter activist which has opened up a lot of conversations around racism in their home.
I’ve followed Laura-Kim’s blog for a while and when I read one of her tweets a while back I wanted to ask her to join me for a video on racism. She shared how she went into a shop with her teenage son and she was ignored but the security were watching her son like a hawk. Reading that made my heart break, it is not what any mother wants for her children but this is the reality that many mothers live with.
How To Teach Kids About Racism
As a white person growing up in South Africa I was not aware of racism until I was in standard five (now grade 7). It was 1991 and the first time that people of colour were allowed to go to previously white only schools.
An Indian girl joined our class and I can’t remember exactly what happened but there were some incidents of racism that occurred. I remember feeling so embarrassed and ashamed. Part of it was embarrassment and sadness for this girl having to go through that, but I believe that a big part of how I felt was that I never did or said anything to stand up for this girl.
While I did not do or say anything nasty to her the fact that I did nothing was not right and still sits with me.
We are now in 2020 and we live in the rainbow nation. It is important for me to ensure that my children are not racist, that they know and understand what racism is and that they stand up for others.
Teaching Values Through Our Own Behaviour
The very first thing we need to do to teach our kids about racism is to change the way that we are doing things. To acknowledge where we have gone wrong and to ensure that through our own behaviour our children grow up with the right values.
I was a white child growing up in the time of Apartheid and while there was no racism in our home the fact that everything was segregated says something. My reality as a child and the reality of another child that is a person of colour was completely different.
I need to carefully look at the way that I conduct myself and ensure that I am a good role model for my children. I need to be the person that I would like my children to grow up into.
Recognizing Teachable Moments
There are teachable moments everywhere if you make it a priority to teach your children about racism.
A good example to share with you all is last year when my daughter asked me why only brown people want to work at Checkers. I was standing at the till and trying to pay while my son was running around like a lunatic so I told her that I cannot answer her question right now because it was not a simple, one sentence answer.
When we got home I sat her down and I explained to her about the inequality in our country, about racism and many more things that came up. We even spoke about Mandela and how he had been in prison for 27 years before becoming our president. I told her about apartheid and how people of colour were not allowed in the same shops, the beaches or the same schools.
My daughter was very disturbed and upset by the conversation. She asked me about her friends, which I am proud to say reflect the rainbow nation of our country. She wanted to know if they had been discriminated against. I told her that I am sure that they had at some stage.
I did not share these things with her to upset her, but I felt that she needed to know that things are not always as they seem at face value. The people that she thought wanted to work at Checkers probably don’t have many other options available to them.
Laura-Kim is quite involved with charities and often goes into townships and she takes her kids with her. There have been some amazing discussions that come out of these trips as they live in the suburbs and are quite sheltered. This way her children see how other people live and to get some empathy. It gives an opportunity to explain the inequality and why things are how they are now.
I know that talking about race can be very sensitive and you may not be comfortable with it, but the more the topic is spoken about the easier it will get and the better the world will be.
Why It’s Important To Stand Up Vocally Against Racism
Racism is still such a widespread problem. If we want to combat this problem we don’t have the option of staying quiet. Change does not happen by staying quiet, and being quiet when we see something that is wrong is being complicit.
I have not really witness someone being directly racism to another person to their face, however what I often encounter is when someone says something to me about another person that is racist.
For example I have had someone tell me they are concerned about the amount of dark kids in the class and I have also had someone comment on how many friends I have or my kids have that are people of colour. This type of thing is upsetting and I find that it is important for me to say how I feel about that.
We may not change how someone else behaves but we need to show our children that we stand up.
How We Can Encourage Schools To Get Actively Involved
Our children spend so much time in school and they are taught about bullying, being kind, sex education and more. I just find it really strange that the topic of racism, race and the history of our country’s fight for freedom is not being proactively addressed in schools.
I asked my daughter if she has ever been taught anything in school about racism and I was disappointed to find out that she has not.
It is not enough to wait for an incident of racism to occur before addressing it – this is something that should be tackled head on. Perhaps we as parents should be addressing this with the PTA and the school board to see how we can address this properly?
Teaching Our Children About Politics and The Importance Of Voting
This is something that Laura-kim and Keri-Lee stressed in the video and it is very important. We need to teach our children about politics and encourage them to properly research what each political party truly stands for by reading their manifesto.
There are so many people that vote by doing what our parents did before us, or we take note of the tweets or social media discussions. This does not give a true reflection of what each party stands for. Social media is not the right place to get your information and base your decisions.
We need to encourage our children to take an interest in how things work and make up their own minds for what they want for our country and to vote for what they believe in.
There are many fantastic resources where you can learn more about the history of our country and about racism, as well as fantastic resources to help you teach your kids about racism.
I Write What I Like by Steve Biko
Bantu Stephen Biko was an anti-apartheid activist who was at the forefront of the Black Consciousness Movement. He was arrested in 1977 and beaten to death by state security officers at the age of 31. His book I Write What I Like contains a selection of his writings.
Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
There is no need to introduce Nelson Mandela, his book Long Walk To Freedom is his autobiography sharing his early life, coming of age education and his 27 years spent in prison.
We Are Not Such Things by Justine van der Leun
This book recounts the murder of Amy Biehl, an American scholar and anti-Apartheid activist. It goes into the life in townships, Apartheid and South Africa in general.
Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
This is a book that follows two families, one black and one white, as they talk about the shooting of a black man by police in their community. The book is aimed at answering questions that children have about such traumatic incidents and to assist children in identifying and countering racial prejudice and injustice in their own lives.
This book includes guidelines for caregivers and parents for discussing racism and race with children.
Whoever You Are
This book teaches children that while we may not look the same, speak the same language or have the same culture we are all the same inside. It teaches children about tolerance, accepting our differences, recognizing similarities and rejoicing in both.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
This is a beautiful book by actress Lupito Nyong’o that inspires children to see their own beauty. It is about Sulwe that has the darkest skin in her family and her school and the magical journey she goes on that changes the way she sees herself.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Curry
This lovely book is written by Matthew A Curry, award winning director and former NFL player, and beautifully illustrated by Vashti Harrison. It shows the love of a black father for his daughter and how he gives his daughter a special hair style to help her self-confidence.
Black Is A Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
This book is about a child that reflects on what it means to be black. It covers black culture, history and a legacy.