If the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent impact across the US, Canada, and seemingly every part of our planet has stirred up some feelings within you, you're not alone. It's impossible to ignore. And you're not the only parent who has wondered how to talk about it with your kids. So let's get right to it...
Don't avoid the topic of racism.
Kids are learning about race and about racism - it's just a matter of whether or not they are learning the right things. By having the conversation you are simply giving them appropriate language around the topic and providing a safe place to process issues they are already wrestling with. And while white families are three times less likely to discuss race, studies show that kids who do talk about race with their families exhibit fewer signs of prejudice. And, let's be honest, if avoiding the topic of racism is even a possibility for you, you need to recognize that you are in a position of privilege. And with that privilege comes a duty to stand with those and fight for those who do not have your privilege.
Start with scripture.
For Christians there is no grey area when it comes to racism. Racism breaks God's heart. Imagine seeing someone you created telling someone else you created that he or she was not created with equal worth. Imagine someone you created murdering someone else you created... We can't comprehend that. Obviously. We could never comprehend the anguish God must feel. But I think it's worth trying. I think it would be beneficial for us to at least attempt to empathize with God's experience. We must care. We know where God stands on racism and oppression and injustice. We know this because of passages like Genesis 1:27, and James 2:1, and Mark 12:30-31, and 1 John 3:15, and Galatians 3:28, and Acts 10:1-11:18, and Ephesians 2:14-18, and Revelation 5:9-10 - just to name a few… We know where God stands - and we know the role He requires us to play. Those of us who follow Jesus carry with us the message of the gospel - a gospel that shatters racial barriers that separate people.
Avoid colour-blind messages.
Well-intentioned parents sometimes teach their kids not to see race because "we are all the same." And, true, we all have equal worth and intrinsic value as people made in the image of God. However, our differences matter very much - particularly how different races and people groups have been treated unequally, both in history and presently. Equality should exist but it doesn’t. It’s important our kids understand that. An awareness of realities like white privilege and systemic oppression are key in breaking down walls of racism.
Speak from your own experiences.
This one requires you to check your own heart and ask yourself some tough questions:
Do I celebrate diversity - with words but also when it comes to my circle of friends?
Do I continue to educate myself?
Does the plight of the oppressed come up in my conversations and in my prayers?
After addressing those questions you can speak to your kids from a position of authority. When they see their parents have dinner - and spend time with and laugh with - people of other races and socioeconomic backgrounds, it will make sense to them why you think it’s important that they are friends with people who don't look like them. When they see your actions prove that fighting against racism is more important to you than your comfort, they will feel the weight of their own actions, and the impact that they can have.
Every human being on the planet is made in the image of God and is someone that Jesus loved enough to die for. We must address the existence of racism, both personal and institutional, in our nation’s past and present. We must get involved and get our kids involved.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with some of these Action Items. Or you can start with this Bible reading plan on YouVersion - or this other one about justice. Here’s an article your family can read that addresses the plight of Indigenous people in Canada - and then discuss it. Here is an Instagram account that you may find eye-opening. You can also find resources from our Canadian government, including this (very long) list of anti-racism resources as well as this overview of what the government has done and what we can do to engage.
And if you’re not sure how exactly to guide the discussions that you would like to have, here are a few questions you can use:
What have you been taught about race and culture?
Take inventory: in what ways do we benefit from privilege? And what is our duty as recipients of this privilege?
How do you plan on helping the fight to end racial discrimination and systemic oppression?
How can we actively be anti-racist instead of just not being racist?
I don't have all the answers - I'm certain of that. And I would love to dialogue with anyone who has more answers than I do - or anyone who wants to learn with me (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org). But I know some things...
Racism is a problem in Canada. This matters to Jesus. And it needs to matter to us. Let’s listen. Let’s learn. Let’s talk. Let’s act.