The year 2020 has become in my opinion the most powerful year in terms of realizing that we need to have tough conversations with our younger generation on race and skin color. Not only that, we as adults need to address our bias’ and understand why we are so scared to have these conversations with them. In this post, I will talk about what conversations I had with my children and how you can talk to your children about race and skin color.
The inspiration for this post came from a CNN article I read this morning. It was a message for White parents to talk to their children about race and how they can race empathetic adults. Here is the link for that post here https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/07/health/white-parents-talk-racism-wellness-partner/index.html
It’s a very interesting article and lists various data on how children of white parents were kind of aware about about race, color of skin and various prejudices pertaining to that. And this got me thinking about how conversations of skin color vary among populations living in different parts of the world and how “privilege” plays a part.
Before I delve deep into this topic, I just want to make one thing clear, I am not singling out anybody. What many parents deem fit to talk to about their children is completely and solely their decision but here is my point- in order to erase the failures of the past, you need to address the current situation and enlighten your children. The conversations differ in each and every household.
MY FIRST CONVERSATION WITH MY DAD:
The first time I actually felt that my skin color played a role in how I would live in the world was in Grade 12 in Prince Albert, Canada. I was volunteering for a group named “Mothers against Drinking and Driving” (MADD) and I had organized a toy drive for the local hospital. It was quite a successful initiative and the hospital wanted to do a newspaper article on the effort. We were a group of 3 girls – me and 2 of my “white” friends. When it came time for pictures at the hospital, a few of mine were clicked and then the photographer asked if she could click a picture of just my “white” friends. I agreed- no harm right?
On my way back home, my father was not very happy with what I had done. I was not sure why he was upset. He said “In tomorrow’s newspaper, you will see that your picture will not be published. You shouldn’t have agreed to the photographer taking a picture of the other girls WITHOUT YOU” Being a teenager, I got mad at him for thinking that the photographer would not print my picture because in my mind we all had done equal work. My dad said “okay, let’s see tomorrow”
Well, since a kind of “bet” was on between him and me, I could barely sleep in the night because I wanted to prove him wrong. As soon as I heard the newspaper bang our front door, I was up and running to get it. No surprise to what I found….the photographer had published the picture of only my white friends and the whole article was about how they had put in the hard work. I was merely mentioned towards the end. I was upset and mad! My dad was right and I was so naive.
So he sat me down and this is the conversation he had with me ON SKIN COLOR:
“Your skin color is different than theirs. They will get everything in life easily because they have “white” skin. You will have to work twice as hard to prove your merit and at all times “showcase” your work for them all the time. Things for people with a skin color other than “white” is not easy until things change”
While telling me this he narrated several incidents of what he went through at his work.
What I learned from this:
From that day onward, I was very much aware of my skin color. The conversation with my father opened my eyes to what many people of skin color other than “white” would be going through. It was an honest and open communication session with him. He was educating me the best he knew how because of all the things he went through.