A Black Influencer Answers Nine Common Racism Questions
I don’t even pretend I understand racism, black culture or the black experience enough to write thoughtfully about what’s going on in our country right now and what to do about it. I jokingly tell people, I’m “legally white!” Clueless. But I ran across this wonderful blog written by Jehava Brown, an African-American Christian which I found practical and incredibly helpful. At 71, it’s not too late for me to learn.
As a black woman influencer in America, my inbox has been flooded with questions about racism in the last weeks. My heart is heavy from current events, but the people waking up, asking questions and fighting for change gives my family and I hope.
I’ve made a list of the most commonly asked questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. In no way can I speak for black people everywhere, and I won’t try to. I’m a mother, I’m a wife, and I’m a friend. I’m a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a social media influencer, and these are my thoughts:
1. How can I explain racism to my child? There is no perfect conversation to have, the important thing is that you have it. My kids have had 5-year-old kids tell them they don’t like black people, so it’s never too early.
For younger kids it is important to tell them that there are mean people in this world (they already know this), and some people are mean to people because of the color of their skin. I would also touch on your own personal views and that you believe that we should always look for ways to stick up for others when they’re being treated unfairly, and specifically that we make sure we always do that for people of color.
For us, faith always factors into the conversation. We talk about how racism is a sin and something that breaks God’s heart. We talk about how it’s important to Him that we strive to live our lives with love and kindness.
It is so important to have these conversations. Black parents have to have a million conversations like this with our kids and it breaks our hearts. It’s hard to talk about anything that doesn’t make our kids feel great inside, but please do it, it’s so so important. Be direct, because they can make a bigger difference than you know.
2. Do you have any other advice for raising our children differently? Having honest conversations about racism is a start, but intentionally diversifying your life is just as important.
You need to talk about all people being equal and about black people positively, but you also need to show it with your actions. I encourage you to be intentional in bringing diversity into your home, your life, and your routines, to show that what you are preaching is truly in your heart. Don’t just watch movies with all white casts, read books from white authors, follow white influencers on Instagram, or have people in your home that only look just like you.
It truly does start at home. When your lives are less white washed, you will raise children that do not have ingrained beliefs about other races. When they see black people in their lives, positively shown on their TV’s, in the books they read, and with the toys they play with will change their perception to one of inclusion and equality.
3. What is wrong with saying I don’t see color or teaching my children not to? First, your kids see color even if you think you are teaching them not to. We all see color and that is not a bad thing. God made us uniquely different and we should embrace that. That is how change will truly happen. We aren’t all the same and when we celebrate those differences, it changes stereotypes and perceptions.
Saying “I don’t see color” can be harmful because it is taking away from acknowledging the issues people of color in this country are facing. We need to acknowledge it so that they can be dismantled. There are many prejudices that every single American has, it is systemic, and the messages have been everywhere since birth. We need to recognize them and not be passive about them. This will make the difference.
We don’t get to say “I don’t see color,” because our color is the first thing noticed. Saying that is privileged.
4. Life feels really hard for me, how can I have privilege when it doesn’t feel that way? White privilege is not saying that you don’t have a hard life, or that bad things haven’t happened to you. No one in the world can bypass that. It means that your skin color is not something that is making your life harder.
White privilege is from systemic racism. There are many systems that have been put in place to oppress people of color for decades, and many of them have not been dismantled.
Studies show a black person is most likely to be hired if they have a white sounding name on their resume. They show that black children are disciplined harder than their white peers for the same issues in school and that blacks have dramatically longer prison sentences for the same crimes that a white person would commit. They show that generational wealth does not exist in black communities for a variety of reasons and that “redlining” still happens to encourage segregation and to keep black people occupying lesser housing in lesser neighborhoods. The list goes on and on and none of it is okay.
Take some time to research statistics for black people in the following areas: -The rate of unemployment. -Homeownership. -Likelihood of being pulled over. -Black women dying in childbirth. -The wealth gap.
There are systems in place that make it harder for black people to graduate college, get a good job, and buy a home.
5. I don’t understand the rioting & looting at all? Why is there so much violence? So, the actual fact is that there are TONS of peaceful protests taking place consistently that include zero violence.
However, there are some that include looting, etc. I do not and won’t ever condone violence, but it is very important for people to understand it.
For years, black people have tried peaceful protests and it has caused no change. A few years ago, Colin Kapernick started a movement of peaceful protest. It was ONLY to make a stand against the racism in our country. Instead, it was torn apart and made about the flag and being unpatriotic.
Now there are more riots because black people are exhausted, hurt and trying to get the attention of those not affected. They’re trying to get people to stand up and do something about injustice in America. The whole point is to get attention on the cause. It is important to remain focused on the cause that they’re fighting for not the actions of a few people.
The only way change can happen is if those who benefit from racism, say NO it will not continue anymore.
6. What are some good books to learn about racism for both adults and kids? I encourage you to google books on diversity, racism, systemic racism, and teach your kids about it because, there are MANY out there, but here are some to get you started.
For adults: “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in The Cafeteria” -Beverly Tatum
“From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America” – Elizabeth Hinto
“The New Jim Crow”- Michelle Alexander
“White Fragility” — Robin Diangalo
“So You Want to Talk About Race” — Ijeoma Oluo
“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook got Wrong” — James Loewen
For kids: “Hair Love” – Vashti Harrison
“The Youngest Marcher” – Vanessa Newton
“Resist” – Veronica Chambers
“All American Boys” – Jason Reynolds
“Were Different, Were The Same” – Bobbi Kates
“Little Legends” – Vashti Harrison
7. I’ve felt like people of color haven’t been positive towards me in various situations, and I’ve dealt with reverse racism but many people tell me that’s not a thing. Can you explain?
You have most likely experienced prejudice, but reverse racism is not a thing by definition.
Racism and prejudice aren’t the same thing.
Racism is a system in which a racial majority is able to enforce its power and privilege over another race through political, economic and institutional means. The important difference is that racism is prejudice + power. The two work together to create the system of inequality.
There has never been a national set of laws or systems put in place to systematically oppress white people or push them to a lesser status. So, that is why reverse racism isn’t possible, but prejudice is.
8. What can I do to help create change in our country?
– Change truly does start at home. Have the conversations with your kids and intentionally bring diversity into your life.
– Have those hard conversations with your friends and family members. Don’t be passive, but make a stand that racism is wrong.
– Social media is a powerful tool. Post news stories, meaningful memes, and educational articles. It has the ability to open up the eyes of others and makes a change.
– Educate yourself and those around you by reading books and watching documentaries on racism. It will open your eyes as well as come up in conversations with those around you.
– Sign petitions to stand against injustice. There are constant petitions around people who are experiencing racial injustice.
– Stop searching for a loophole to feel better about a horrific story and educate yourself on bias and double standards, then stand firmly for justice.
– There are tons of organizations you can donate to in your state and nationally to fight against injustice on every level in America. Those dollars matter.
9. What do you most want white people to know? Your voice makes a difference. When you decide to no longer be silent or passive or panic over having the right words to say, things will change. When those who are benefiting from racism, choose to speak out against it, transformation will happen. Sadly, it won’t by black people talking about it. That has happened for decades. It takes those who are not affected to say “NO MORE.”
You can’t let this be a fad. You have to keep fighting for inclusion in every area of your life. It can change, and you have the power to do it. You can let life continue on as it has for decades, or you can help break the chains of racism in this country.
Whether you want privilege or not, this country has constructed a system to give it to you. You can use that privilege to change things for my beautiful, smart, amazing black boys and a million others. You can follow Jehava Brown on Instagram @Only-girl4boyz.
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