Since having my oldest child nearly 7 years ago (how did that happen so fast?), my spouse and I have had challenging and real conversations about how to weave anti-racism into our parenting. We have shared with our children the hard truths about racism, the KKK, discrimination, slavery, the civil rights movement, George Floyd’s death, and the countless police shootings of unarmed black men, women, and children. As white parents, my spouse and I negotiated when was a good age or “the right time” to have conversations about race, but all the workshops and books I have read on anti-racist parenting name the truth that black parents don’t get the privilege of holding off race conversations until they’re kids “are ready” because it is a matter of safety when navigating the realities of the world as a person of color.
So we talk about race with our children, and we talk about it often. It’s part of our faith values, “speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) We are called to say something, bear witness, and speak the truth with love.
We notice skin color at school, in stores, in books, and in art. We talk about race discrimination in books (publishers showing preference to white authors), in jobs (employers have a bias in hiring), and in movies (white characters show up as heroes far more than black characters). We talk about how we try to buy books that show our diverse world, we try to patronize black-owned businesses, and we ensure we put ourselves in activities that have leaders of color and celebrate diversity. And my children’s favorite, we watch tv shows and movies with diverse leads that show strong, beautiful, and brave black characters.
And yet, we mess up. We grow and learn and continue to reshape our lives and parenting as we take in new perspectives.
Recently, I noticed that we may have hit the black plight really hard with our kids… slavery, racism, and struggle slipped in as our dominant narrative around black Americans. And then I was invited by a friend to attend a film series this month called Black Joy. It was a weekly movie this month that celebrated black characters and stories. The movies were not about slavery or civil rights. This got me wondering, I think we need to theme Black History Month in our house for 2023 as Black Joy. As white parents and grandparents committed to anti-racist parenting, our children need to know the truths about being white and the history and systems that continue to perpetuate racism. AND they need to know about Black Joy. That the black story isn’t all pain, suffering, hurt, and oppression, it’s also filled with excellent music, brilliant scientists, famous actors and athletes, and delicious recipes.
So in our house, we are leaning into Black Joy this month. And what does that look like in our house?
- Car rides with Spotify Playlists that include Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Ella Fitzgerald … talking about the beauty and differences of music by all these and more black musicians.
- Watching movies like The Incredibles and talking about the amazing character Frozone character and also watching Akeelah and the Bee and Soul. Disney + even has curated a Black History Month movie and show list.
- Reading Picture Books that aren’t about race but feature black characters and stories from the black experience.
- Walking the Long Street bridge and talking about black artists from our community.
- Looking up Wikipedia pages about black athletes that we think are the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time)
Is this the equation to solve racism in kids? No.
Is this the best way to handle Black History Month as a parent or grandparent? I don’t know.
Am I missing something? Probably.
But when we freeze up and do nothing, we miss God’s invitation to speak the truth with love.
So what are you doing to honor Black History month this year?
-Written by Brittany Porch
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Brittany, Thank you for your thoughts and leadership on this at the church . We’re fortunate at BSPC to be located in the heart of CBUS Black history and I appreciate the efforts we’ve made as a congregation to learn more about our neighborhood, our neighbors and some of the challenges they are facing, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to experience some of the joys and beauty African American culture.
Love this idea of raising up the achievements and joys of other cultures and races! We should always continue to do so with some balance of current struggles people of color yet face in this country. Thanks for this post.
I love that you are leaning into teaching about diversity and equity in your parenting. I wish there was more of that in our communities. At work, as a science-based company, we are celebrating the achievements of black inventors and scientists throughout the month. You’ve reminded me that I need to bring that home as well.
Well said Brittany. My “children” are in their 50’s and I’m very glad that they welcome one and all into their lives. As parents what we do is as important as what we say. The church is (sadly sometimes not) a place where God’s love for all is made clear through the teachings of Jesus. One saying kids might understand—when you point one finger at someone three fingers point back at you.