Talking to Your Children About Racism

In light of the most recent outcry for justice for the African American community, the Coalition recently shared with our foster and adoptive community this reflection on how to talk to your children about racism in these tragic times.

Horrific events like the death of Mr. George Floyd force us to confront the ever-present racial injustices in our society. This is an issue especially close to our hearts because of the racial disproportionality in foster care. Nationwide, 33% of children in foster care are African-American even though they make up only 15% of the population. In St. Louis, the disparity is even more drastic. While less than 30% of St. Louis City and County’s combined population is black, black children account for more than 70% of our local foster care population. Our families face the reality of racial injustice every day.

These times also open up necessary conversations about racism and justice. If you are looking for a place to start, we leave this reflection for you.

Talking to your children about racism in these tragic times

We are the mothers, fathers, and caregivers of beautiful young African American children. As we cherish all of their smiles, quirks, and the brilliance they exude, we know that in today’s America, this cuteness will one day fade and the question we all ask is, “When will the world picture my baby as a threat instead of the wonderful child I’ve loved and raised?”

Please know you have every right to feel sad, angry, discouraged, exhausted, and numb with grief. As much as you are trying to process the tragic situation regarding Minneapolis resident, Mr. George Floyd—and others, including Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, and Christian Cooper—your children are, too. During this, they are growing and learning how to be an adult, what’s appropriate, and how to manage this ongoing fear as a person of color. Where do we go from here? At a time when we are lost for what action we can take, as a caregiver of any race caring for a person of color, here are things you can do to affirm their life and culture.

Hope in the Dark

Although we are engulfed in rage and sadness right now, there is still hope, there are still allies, there are still caregivers willing to learn more, and there is still one very important thing—– time. The time to use your voice is now, the time to talk to your children is now, the time to provide empathy and comfort is now, but most important the time to listen to those who this is directly affecting, people of color, is now. We have seen during COVID-19 we can come together and care for one another past their skin color, economic status, geography, and gender.

The most important thing we must do now is rise together.

The Importance of Conversation

Transracially adopted African American children are more likely to experience more dramatic transitions. Luckily, many transracial programs and additions have been made to the foster/adoptive process to address this active interest and how it shapes one’s relationship and life with their child. Although we cannot provide you an overall right answer we can suggest steps you can take immediately within your home:

  1. Have a Conversation – I use the word conversation intentionally because after this conversation has been had, understand that it’s forever developing and the door must remain open for you to be a supportive parent and ally. Children learn from experiences and observation, the way you move, react to situations is how they see fit to react. As parents and caregivers, we need to acknowledge our children are becoming less protected as they grow and need to understand the world outside of their homes. That includes how you act in response to situations.
  2. Let them embrace their diversity and learn from those living it every day. Let them see in their own family their color is respected, honored, and each member values their input and are open to being educated about their culture and lived experiences. It’s also important to work against the negative that harms them by being an ally and let them never guess if you are standing with them.
  3. Get Educated & Don’t be afraid to reach out for help whether it be a family member, trusted friend, or therapist of a minority. It’s okay to ask for help and support when you don’t know how to navigate the situations because you have not lived it before.
  4. Understand although the wounds may heal, the scar is left. Coping is ongoing until there is a radical change and acceptance this is and will be an emotional weight your children and you have to carry.

Further Reading

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