Black Lives Matter: How To Navigate Parenting During A Crisis

I have fallen out of writing the past few months for a number of reasons. Mostly, mentally I am exhausted which has had a major effect on my creativity and my will to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as it were). However, in a time so rife with high tensions, waves of emotions, and a feeling of chaos, I felt it was due time for me to write something.

I am a mixed-race woman who identifies as Black. Some people may read that and wonder ‘What does that even mean?’ To simplify, I have one parent who is white and one who is black. However, due to having a single mother and being raised in a low-income neighbourhood (insert any article here about systematic oppression and how it fuels the divide in race and benefits the idea of white supremacy, honestly, any article will do) especially a neighbourhood that for many years was heavily policed due to the placement of a police station right at the heart of our neighbourhood, my white side was ignored. It was invisible. To all those involved, (police, anybody in positions of authority, store clerks) I was a little black kid. End of story. So naturally, during this time, during this period of civil unrest, I am very heavily plagued.

Even here in Canada, I have experienced racism on a spectrum of degrees. Sure, some have been very subtle, so subtle in fact that it made those around me question whether or not I was being oversensitive or overreacting. On the other hand, I have also been called racial slurs and the “N” word has been thrown at me with the intention of harming me. If there is one thing that is indisputable, no matter how much people yell and scream otherwise, it is that in the year 2020 racism is alive and well, and yes… this is a huge issue that impacts so many of us.

As a parent during these times, it’s so important to do two very big things. The first and most important thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issue. It isn’t enough anymore to rely on people handing us information. We are no longer children and the answers to any questions you may have are right at your fingertips. Don’t fall on ignorance or use poor upbringing as an excuse to continue a cycle of racism. If you are a parent in Canada, I urge you to educate yourself on the First Nation Canadians, Reservation Schools, and the role the RCMP has had with them. If you have any false belief that systematic oppression or racism isn’t alive and well here, diving into these topics should be enough to prove otherwise and educating yourself is the first step towards real change.

The second thing you can do is look inward. Ask yourself if you have a part to play in racism, no matter how small. Be honest with yourself, don’t hide behind excuses as to why you may do the things you do. Your children don’t see the excuses, they see what you do and what you say. Be someone your children would be proud of.

This generation is the most accepting I’ve seen thus far. If you do feel the need to cling to your hate, it’s important to be realistic with yourself. In a day and age where everyone is free to be who they want to be and our children accept that easier and easier, just know that your children “outgrowing you” because of your views is a very real possibility. I know more people in these past weeks, while the protests for Black Lives Matter have been going strong, a lot of children have stepped away from parents who cling to outdated ideas about race.

Love your children more than yourself. Love your children enough to change for them, no matter how difficult that is for you.

A conversation I have had a lot in the past weeks has started with “Why is this your problem?” Or “Why are you letting this get to you the way you are?”

The answer to that is so simple; this should be everyone’s problem, and when you sit there in the safety of your home and watch a video where a man is held on the ground, handcuffed with a knee to his neck for just under 9 minutes calling for his mama, you should feel that in the very depths of your soul. It should sicken you, it should break you, and at the forefront of your mind, you should be asking yourself how you can stop this cycle. How can you prevent another George Floyd or Trayvon Martin? What can you do right now, to protect someone else’s baby from calling out to them moments before they are murdered in the street while the world watches?

We are humanity. Asking why we should care instead of what we should do means somewhere along the way, you’ve lost your sense of humanity.

The most important thing I can teach my daughter is how to be a good person and how to be kind. The world is full of people with different skin colours, different religious beliefs, different lifestyles and sexualities. Teaching your child kindness and acceptance is giving your child the tools they need to get a jump start on life. As important as it is to teach children kindness, it’s equally important to teach them to speak out when they witness injustice.

If these protests have taught us anything, it’s that there is unity here. The humanity we thought was withering away has been brought to the forefront as people from every walk of life march together, chant together, cry together.

An open dialogue is so important for those of you with children old enough to understand. Explain to them what is happening, do not ignore their feelings of fear and unrest. Yes, right now is a little scary but it is important. Try to limit their TV time when the news is on so you as a parent can control the dialogue. This is another time when research is really important. Spend some time, find the facts, share them with your child in a way they can understand. Protests are how the people show those in power that something is broken, and something is very broken in the world which is evident in just how many countries have stood beneath signs that scream for justice.

In an age where information is plentiful and the media is often spreading a false narrative, it’s up to you to not only uncover the truth but to share it with your children. Knowledge is so important and I think in trying to shield our children from the worries of the world, we often don’t realize we are robbing them. Yes, our children are innocent and we want them to be innocent for as long as they can, but they are smart and they are resilient and they see far more than we think they do. They can maintain their innocence as they learn if you teach them the right way.

Don’t shy away because it’s uncomfortable. This is your job as a parent, make sure you do it well.

As scary as it is for a lot of you, parents of children of colour have been forced, through systematic racism and oppression, to have these uncomfortable conversations with our children for far too long. We’ve had to explain to them how although they are beautiful and precious, the colour of their skin also makes them a target for police brutality, may prevent them from getting to love the people they want, or cost them the job they’ve earned. We’ve had to keep them indoors when it’s dark, told them games like “Cops and robbers” are off-limits in public, and that they have to have a firm grip on their temper because a raised voice has consequences for a black person. These are conversations parents have black children have had to have, so even though it’s uncomfortable, educate your children on race.

This world is scary, don’t add to the fear and don’t be a part of the problem.

Parents have this power that is unmeasured. We are moulding the minds of the future. If we do this correctly, we can ensure our children walk out of the warm embrace of our arms and change the world.

Isn’t it time for a change?