5 action steps to begin encouraging a racism free home
Anti-racism is not a trend, it is a lifelong commitment. It is up to you to do your research and put in the work.
As a white woman married to a black man and mum to two mixed race daughters I never assume I am 100% inclusive and free from racial prejudice. I think it would be ignorant and dangerous to assume this. I have heard too many times white friends say things like “I am not racist, my best friend is black” yet they have never taken the time to find out what it was like for that friend growing up black in a predominantly white community or the struggles they face purely because of their skin colour. Our behaviours are influenced by our childhood experiences, what we consume and see in the media and we are sometimes unaware of our biases. We may also think because we live in the UK we don’t need to address these issues, we do! Racial inequality, oppression and racism exists and we should always be checking in to see if we can be doing more to fight it. Also, it is never too soon to start talking to your children about it. Research has found that expressions of racial prejudice often peek at the age of 4-5 years (1) and by the age of 5 white children are more likely to be strongly biased in favour of whiteness (2).
As adults, we pass our values to children every day through what we say and do. I know and appreciate addressing racism and talking openly about it can be a really difficult subject for some white people. Believe me, it took me ages to write this article, I worried about whether I was using the right terminology, not wanting to offend anyone but at the end of the day, if we keep silent out of fear of saying the wrong thing, we are just adding to the problem. Therefore, do not avoid talking about racism for fear of getting it wrong.
Posting black squares on Instagram and using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter or #blackouttuesday isn’t enough, especially when you have not researched the origin of the hashtags and understood the message behind them.
Thanks to the power of social media we have access to so much information, advice and research, it is almost overwhelming and can be off putting. I do not claim to have all the answers and I am not saying I am a great white anti-racist role model, I am far from it but I have taken time to research and have found books to read and films to watch to educate myself and my family and friends and have shared them here along with some tips on how to take action in becoming an anti-racist family.
Some of the links to books in this article are affiliate links meaning if you purchase the books through clicking the link, I may receive a small commission. If you do want to buy books I encourage you to buy from Indie and/or Black and People of Colour bookstores. There are lots online and on social media, you can search by using the hashtags #antiracismeducation and #inclusiveeducation. During my search I found @littleblackbooknook on Instagram.
Know your history and educate yourself
If you want to make a difference be a family who promotes inclusivity and equality you need to understand the following:
- the history of racism,
- systemic oppression and how it is still happening and supported,
- what it means to be privileged
- the role you and your community are playing in relation to white supremacy
I recommend starting by watching “13th” a documentary movie by filmmaker Ava DuVernay who explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.
Then read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and take action. In a recent Instagram post Layla said “To the folk with white privilege reading Me and White Supremacy, but not putting pen to paper to do the journaling: You’re cheating. This is not a book you Read. This is a book you Do”.
Another book I recently ordered is Antagonist, Advocates and Allies: The Wake Up Call Guide for White Women Who Want to Become Allies with Black Women by Catrice M Jackson
Be a positive role model
As adults, we pass our values to children every day through what we say and do. Having a conversation with our children about racism and equality isn’t enough, we have to be role models. So rather than just having a conversation with your kids about race and racism, think more carefully and critically about your everyday behaviour and actions that may actually reproduce the very racist ideas and racial inequality you are trying to challenge through that “conversation”. Think about how you react when you are around black people, what books and magazines you have around the house, how you react to news headlines, how you answer questions posed by your children about race, how you respond to racist remarks made by older family members, what media you consume, where you choose to spend your leisure time. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings, you may not even be aware of how your feelings are influencing your behaviours and ideas around race and equality however your children will be picking up on them all the time.
Once you have done the above, take action. You can start by introducing diversity into your bedtime story book collection as well as age appropriate books that address race equality and anti-racism and have intentional conversations with your children. Some of the books we love are:
Little leaders, Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison,
Little People, Big Dreams Maya Angelou by Lisbeth Kaiser,
The Mega Magic Hair Swap by Rochelle Humes,
Charlie the Fearless and Tancho the Brave by Suhmayah Banda.
We own all of the above books so this is why I am recommending them however there are so many more books to choose from. The Conscious Kid has a list of 41 children’s books to support conversations on Race, Racism and Resistance and you can access it by becoming a Patreon and supporting the work they do.
You can also introduce your kids to some diverse TV shows and movies, not just those that portray Black and People of Colour’s trauma and oppression but those including themes of love, family, friendship and joy. Some ideas are:
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Kenan and Kel, Mira, Royal Detective! Motown Magic and Akeelah and the Bee
Lastly, when you are at your local park and see a black family or a Family of Colour, go over and say hi, your actions will mean so much to your child.
Explain differences, don’t ignore them
Christopher J. Metzler, Ph.D, author of “The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a “Post-Racial America” wrote, “Unless we as parents are willing to help explain to children what seems strange or different to them, we will never be successful in teaching children to understand and appreciate differences.”
No matter what age your child is, you can support them to think about their behaviour and the behaviour of others in an age appropriate way. Here are some examples:
“What if you heard someone at a birthday party tell a boy he can’t play because he has a brown face?”
“Have you ever heard a classmate say to a child with black or brown skin ‘urgh, you are dirty? What could you do if you hear that again?”
“Did you ever wonder what it might be like for a girl with curly black hair and brown skin to never be picked as the princess in the school play and always seeing the white skinned, long blonde hair girls being picked? How could our community work together to change this?”
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox is a great book for babies and toddlers to introduce differences
Children not only need to know what racism is and what it looks like, they need to know what they can do about it. Talk about what is being broadcasted on the news, your thoughts about it and what you can do as a family/community to resist and dismantle oppression. Empower your children, particularly young people to participate in the ongoing movement of racial justice by letting them know what they can do about it. This includes demonstrating resistance, resilience and activism. People of all ages and races have worked together to disrupt racism. Anti-racism is not the responsibility of black people, many white people have stood up against racial injustice. Here are some book recommendations to get you started and don’t forget to put what you have learnt into action.
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
I Am Enough by Grace Byers,
Young, Gifted and Black – 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present – Jamia Wilson,
Princess Hair by Sheree Miller,
Follow and support anti-racism advocates
Here are some accounts that are a great resource – they have been sharing their knowledge and campaigning for change for a long time. Most of them are sharing ways you can help by signing up to an anti-racism course, donating money to charities fighting for justice and lots more. I found these accounts by spending some time doing the research. If you are serious about being an anti-racist family please do the same. This is not a trend, it is a lifelong commitment.
(1) Aboud, F. E. (2008). A social-cognitive developmental theory of prejudice. In S. M. Quintana & C. McKown (Eds.), Handbook of race, racism, and the developing child (p. 55–71). John Wiley & Sons Inc.
(2) Dunham Y, Baron AS, Banaji MR (2008) The development of implicit intergroup cognition. Trends Cogn Sci. Jul; 12(7):248-53.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, what you are going to do to take action and/or any resources you recommend. Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get updates on new blog posts.