The topic of anti-racism has been at the forefront for some time. During the Summer of 2020, many companies began to ramp up their focus on anti-racism efforts in the workplace. Anti-racism activists also began to stress the importance of instilling anti-racist sentiment in children.
Needless to say, the assertion that kids need to learn how to be anti-racist was met with some resistance. Recently, the issue made national news when Senator Ted Cruz questioned Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about Ibram X. Kendi’s book Antiracist Baby. He famously asked the now-Justice Brown Jackson if “babies were racist.”
The attention on Cruz’s book-bashing brought to light an important issue: the anti-racist education of children. Sales of Kendi’s book skyrocketed following its moment in the spotlight during Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing. Anti-racism education early in life has the positive side-effect of following children into adulthood, producing an overall more anti-racist society.
Starting the discussion
The first step in any anti-racist discussion needs to be self-education. Parents and other caregivers will want to be comfortable with the concept of anti-racism so they can engage in the topic without reservation. Conversations surrounding race or racism can be difficult because today’s adults were not exposed to these topics as children.
Children should feel comfortable engaging in this subject. The tone set should tell the child that engaging in the subject of race or racism is normal and productive.
It takes a village
Parents of color often do not choose whether or not they are going to have discussions about racism with their children. Children of color grow up surrounded by the realities of racism, and these meaningful discussions are essential.
A well-known saying exists that it “takes a village” to raise a child. Parents of color could benefit from the help of their white counterparts — their “village” — in anti-racist education. Much of the work that parents of color put in involves teaching their children to interact with white children, whose parents often are not putting the same effort into anti-racist education.
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The value of anti-racism should be considered just as important as instilling other values in children, such as respect, kindness, and gratitude. When white parents place anti-racism education as a priority, they show they are willing to be a part of that global village.
The challenge of instilling anti-racist values
If the exchange between Senator Cruz and Justice Brown Jackson illustrated anything, it was that there continues to be pushback on anti-racist teaching. There are entire factions that believe the concept of anti-racism is negative, but the idea of anti-racism is straightforward — it simply means being against racism. If being against racism is not a concept the entire country can rally behind, it may be a time to take a deep look at the soul of our nation.
Bans on Critical Race Theory (CRT), a legal theory typically only taught in graduate school, have spread across many states. Many laws are ambiguous and make teaching in general difficult for K-12 educators. The vague nature of the laws passed is due to an overall lack of understanding of CRT. Anti-CRT activists fear that teaching children and high schoolers about the United States’ history of systemic racism will make them hate their country or, if they are white, hate who they are. The incendiary language and hand-wringing amongst anti-CRT activists have continued to slow the widespread adoption of anti-racist education.
The benefits of anti-racist and diversity education are apparent in the workplace and the classroom. The benefits of early anti-racism education are also evident. Only good can come from teaching our children to be more loving, accepting, and conscious of the systemic hold racism has on our country.
Matthew Kincaid is a former social studies teacher, and school administrator is now the founder, CEO, and Chief Consulting officer of the non-profit, Overcoming Racism. He is a graduate of Tufts University and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Contact Matthew at [email protected]. Learn more about Overcoming Racism at www.overcomingracism.com.
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