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How White Moms in Interracial Families Can Teach Their Kids Anti-Racism

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I have two amazing stepdaughters from a previous marriage. They are White; I am Black. My 40-year-old daughter Wendy* is the mother of five children, all of whom all are White. My 33-year-old daughter Cindy* has three children, two of whom are half-Black and one who is half-Latinx (Guatemalan). (*Names have been changed.)

As a mother and a Black woman, I am concerned they are not doing a good enough job preparing their children for a racist world. At the age of 5, one of my White grandchildren went so far as to say she would not play with her cousin because her cousin was Black and added that she does not play with Black kids at school. When my half-Black 5-year-old grandchild had to express which baby doll was good, she picked the White doll and she shunned the Latina baby doll to the point of choosing not to play with it because it was “bad.”

So, I will try here to speak to them as one Black mother to her White children, about what they need to be doing to raise anti-racist children and strong Black and Latinx people.

Dear Wendy and Cindy,

I care about both of you as if I birthed you. I have known you since you were 7 and 14. I fell in love with your mother and she made sure to express that you were a package deal. I immediately was captivated by how loving and caring you both were and how you took to me like fish to water. I have watched you grow into amazing women. You are both loving, smart, kind, and caring people. You love your children very much and try to do the best by them.

I am concerned that I did not do enough to prepare you for a racist world and how to navigate it. I recall someone asking Cindy if she had been kidnapped when she was at the waterpark with my brother. I also remember Cindy noticing that all the Black people worked in the back out of view and all the White people worked up front. Your observation made me proud and we never returned. So now more than ever, I see that my raising of you was good, but it is not complete. You still need to hear from me about how to live an anti-racist life and how to raise your children to be racially conscious. Because I know you remaining neutral is complicity.

So, here are some steps you can take to be even better parents:

  • Having a Black mom or Black children does not absolve you from being racist. Take a hard look at yourself.
  • Check your own biases and how they may manifest in your relationships and who you surround yourself with. Even though you may not express racism, that doesn’t mean your friends aren’t racist.
  • Research about racism and educate yourself on how to be anti-racist and a racially conscious parent.
  • Sit and read to your children stories about little Black girls and Black boys and the way they responded in the face of adversity.
  • Point out to your children when you see racial inequalities and bias. Take the opportunity to discuss it with them. Your extensive reading should help you with these conversations.
  • Teach them what racism means and how it manifests.
  • Encourage them to spend more time with their Grandma Coco (me).
  • Make sure your children live in a diverse community, go to a diverse church, and go to a diverse school.
  • Prepare your children for the prejudices they may face. Talk with other Black people about what they have experienced and share that with your children.
  • Teach your children how to be an ally to people different from them, even in the absence of them.
  • Have age-appropriate (these will be sooner than you think) conversations about encounters with law enforcement and how to possibly come out alive.
  • Do not rely on the school to teach them about Black history and their collective trauma of growing up Black or Latinx in America.
  • No one will be a better teacher to your children than you.
  • Understand how racism intersects with other biases and how they feed off each other.
  • Do not let your Whiteness stop you from delving into these issues, and do your best.
  • Seek out other White people to educate you on how to raise anti-racist children.
  • Become an activist. You do not have to march to be an activist, but you can hold workshops at work or at church or in your community. You can call out bias in hiring practices at work and effect change.
  • Teach your children to take pride in their heritage, regardless of how others may see them as less than.
  • Make sure you take care of yourself. This work is hard, but necessary.
  • Teach them to take pride in who they are.
  • Teach them to love their cousins and to defend them at all costs.

This is not an exhaustive list, but should get you started. I know you can do this, and the effort is worth the hard work. So tomorrow, get up, look in the mirror, and take your first steps.

Because I Love You,


Getty image by Halfpoint.

Originally published: June 15, 2020
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