Since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, there have been tons of articles about talking to your kids about a Donald Trump presidency. As parents this is a hard thing to talk about – I get it. I was originally going to write one of these articles myself, but anxiety and other things have kept me unable to write anything until today. But as I read through the articles I was surprised that they all seemed to miss three big things.
Focus on White Kids Without Naming It
All of the articles I have read have been written by fellow white people (though I have not read anywhere near all of them – please let me know if you know of one written by a person of color so I can share it), and as far as I can tell have been about talking to white kids. Yet, I have rarely seen any of the authors acknowledge that they are talking from the perspective of a white parent talking to a white child.
How do I know they are talking about white kids and white parents? Because they don’t acknowledge that the conversation will be different depending on the identities of the people involved. This actually reinforces white supremacy by again defaulting to white.
Could they have meant the advice to apply to all families? Sure. But they ignores the reality that the world– especially with Trump as president – treats white people differently from people of color.
The Urgency Should Have Already Been There
It is crucial to acknowledge that not feeling this urgency to talk to your children about these issues before this election is a function of white privilege. Not talking about racism and taking action as a family before Trump is part of participating in and upholding white supremacy.
Hopefully racism, homophobia, islamophobia, etc. have been something that has been talked about in age appropriate ways in your house before. If not, you should get started. If you have, you will already have a framework to talk about this.
Make sure to explain that racism is not new and acknowledge that you all should have been already talking about this, or taking more action.
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No Talk About Action
The articles I read focus so much on calming kids down, and nothing (or little) about making a plan for action.
Making a plan of things you can do is not only a necessary part of attempting white allyship, but taking action can actually be very calming for kids, because they feel like they can do something in response and have some control.
We talked to the kids about how since we are white and citizens, we have the responsibility to intervene whenever we see anyone be harassed or bullied. We let them know that it is an expectation and is one of the most important rules we have now in our family.
We also let them know we would support them if they got disciplined at school for standing up for others.
There are many other things that white kids and families can do. Here are some ideas that we came up with:
- Attend protests and rallies together and make signs.
- If you don’t have one already, put Black Lives Matters signs up in your yard and talk about what that means. Also rainbow flags and other signs of visibility and support.
- The oldest can help with childcare at meetings.
- Asking for holiday presents to be donations instead.
- Making our own supportive shirts with sharpies and blank shirts.
- Participating (with us) in boycotts.
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I’m sure there are many other things that we all can do (and more to come) and we need to make sure that we continue to place a priority on action and doing the work, because, as all parents know, kids are much more likely to take cues from your actions than they are to just listen to empty words.
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[Feature Image: A grey scale photo of a person with shoulder-length hair. They are looking directly into the camera. Source: Deraman Uskratzt]