YouthZone column: YouthZone helps parents address racism with their kids

Lori Mueller
For YouthZone
Lori Mueller
Alexi Molden

As a parent in today’s society it can be difficult to navigate through a topic as complex as racism, and if you are part of a white family, you may not even feel directly impacted by it. Remaining silent and ignoring these issues can perpetuates their existence. Today, more than ever before, we have a duty as parents and role models to take an active role in ending racism.

YouthZone believes that silence is unacceptable. People may keep their silence trying to be polite or simply not knowing what to say. We may even believe that remaining silent in the face of racism is simply easier. These behaviors can have a direct correlation with how our children perceive racism and how to talk about it.

It’s never too early to start talking with your children about race, but it’s important to educate yourself before you jump into these conversations. You can begin by first understanding the biases you hold within yourself. These biases are deep seated within our own culture, so they may be difficult to acknowledge at first. With continued introspection and accountability, we can begin to develop our own understanding and thus become better role models for our children.

To recognize some biases you might hold, you can begin by asking yourself:

What do I tend to remain silent about?

What questions am I not asking? Why?

Am I avoiding more difficult conversations in order to keep the peace?

What can I do to be more educated on these matters?

These questions aren’t easy to answer, but they will help you determine the appropriate steps to teach against racism.

There are tons of resources out there to help you understand how to recognize signs of racism, how to talk about it, and how to move forward in actively teaching against it. The Smithsonian has a website with tools designed to help recognize racism and its history, where it comes from, and how to teach against it.

The site states, “Once we know and accept, we have bias, we can begin to recognize our own patterns of thinking. With awareness and a conscious effort, we have the power to change how we think and to challenge the negative or harmful biases within ourselves.”

If you feel unsure about how to talk with your children about racism, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A podcast by NPR, entitled Talking Race with Young Children, reminds us not to be silent or wait for a later time when our children ask tough questions. The podcast encourages, “Be proactive, helping them build a positive awareness of diversity.”

The article 100 Race-Conscious Things You Can Say To Your Child To Advance Racial Justice, from the Raising Race Conscious Children organization, shares creative ideas on how to get your children talking. This article suggests explaining racism and cultural awareness and recognizing differences in people and celebrating them.

The best way to build a better tomorrow is by showing our children how to be conscious, educated and dedicated to the fight for equality. As parents, we need to be constantly educating ourselves on how to provide the best information and solutions to our children when the hard questions come up. It may not always be easy to take an active role, but intentional hard work is the only way to show our children the kind of consciousness that our culture desperately needs.

YouthZone has a history of working with parents and families on having these conversations. Building trust and open communication are key components of healthy relationships with children. It is important to recognize that when we don’t ask those tough questions, someone else will, and when we don’t answer those questions, someone else will. YouthZone is here to help you navigate these conversations and to work together to build a stronger family.

Lori Mueller is the Executive Director for YouthZone. She brings nearly 30 years of experience as a parent educator and family advocate. Lori earned her degree in Social Work, Criminal Justice Certified, from Colorado State University. Lori is also a certified parenting instructor.

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