It occurred to me that I put out a lot of Instagram/Facebook content (that I spend a lot of time on!) that never makes it to my website - so going to try catch up a bit!
In the month of June 2020, post the brutal murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we ran a daily #BeAntiRacistChallenge on Instagram. One of our core goals in starting Artsy Dinos is to help parents teach their kids to embrace all types of diversity in the world. With this movement, we further strengthened our mission to not only embrace, but also to CHAMPION all types of diversity. Because it’s not enough to be kind… it’s not enough to not be racist… we must teach our littles to BE ANTI-RACIST. To call out racism (and really any discriminatory actions) when they see it – or at least let us parents know so we can help do the same.
I'm by no means an expert in anti-racism - these are just some of the things I've done or want to learn more about as I work on myself and how to raise Bubba to be better. Being of Indian descent, I have two opposing forces on this topic - I recognize I have many of the privileges afforded to white people but am also on the receiving end of the discrimination, prejudice and “otherness” that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) experience. While there are a lot of great, very thorough resources out there, I wanted to make this specifically geared for parents / educators who work with children and easily actionable to get you started. The ones in this post (abridged captions as needed) are specifically focused on teaching kids – for the whole list of daily challenges, check out the #BeAntiRacistChallenge Highlight on our Instagram.
Instead of being in like a daily sequential order, I’ve grouped them in categories that you can choose from.
Like all the important values we want to pass down to our children, this is a continual lesson. You wouldn’t teach your kids about being kind just once… these are lessons you reinforce over and over again!
Talk, Talk, Talk!
1) Tell your little ones their skin is beautiful and that all skin colors are beautiful.
If you’ve never talked to your kids about race or skin colors, this is a great place to start!
Tell your kiddos they're beautiful today! But specifically their skin color is beautiful and everyone's is beautiful. And if someone tells them otherwise, they're wrong!
Remember – the goal is not to be color blind. It’s to recognize the diversity and experiences of people of different colors.
Also, before you them all skin color is beautiful - ask them what they think. Like "how beautiful is xxx skin?". You may be surprised at the response!
2) Start the conversation about racism and skin color.
When we first started our discussions with Bubba about skin color, we discussed how it's wrong to not play with someone just because they are a different color than you, what to do if someone is mean to you (both in the context of skin color and just in general), how while people were different colors, we don't call them by their colors, we use their names, etc. I gave him an example of when I was his age, these two little girls told me to put white powder on my skin so I could play with them.
We then moved on to defining the term racism and talking about people of different races. We also talk about how there’s nothing wrong with him – people saying mean things is something they learned and they weren’t making a good choice.
Recently, we read the book “Brick by Brick” and talked to him about slavery (he’s almost 5). It was a hard, uncomfortable conversation for us, but for him, it’s just a conversation. It’s a little upsetting to him, but the discomfort parents feel about talking about racism is usually more on our side than theirs!
Here are some basic questions to start with!
3) Your “teachable moment” is another parent’s worst fear come to life.
I read this on @readlikearockstar and it really resonated with me. We MUST be intentional in teaching our kids to embrace diversity and to shut down ignorance. We have to proactively teach our kids what is and what isn't acceptable. Don't wait til your kid says something offensive to another kid to talk about racism, diversity and inclusivity. ⠀⠀⠀
So today's #beantiracistchallenge is a reminder to discuss! If you're BIPOC, give them an example of racism you've experienced and how it's made you feel. If you are white, give concrete examples of what is racist.
4) Craft, Talk and Teach Today.
Our goal at Artsy Dinos is to teach kids to embrace all types of diversity in the world. We choose to do this through arts and crafts because craft time is a great time to talk, bond and have fun with your littles. Plus, it creates a physical reminder that kids can take pride in as they learn. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Today's #beantiracistchallenge is to do a Black Lives Matter craft - a yard sign, coloring pages, sidewalk chalk, whatever you can think of. More importantly, use it as a time to talk to your littles about racism and the reason you're making a craft that says "Black Lives Matter". ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We made a yard sign and we talked about Black Lives Matter. We told him that people were being extra mean to black people and this was a way to tell them not to be mean. Another craft we’ve done is the BLM logo with a Q-Tip for dots.
5) Teach them to be Anti-Racist. What should they say?
In your conversations with your kiddos about race, make sure you're also teaching them how to respond when they hear someone saying something to either them or others.
For Bubba at 4, we teach him:
1) I don't like that
2) That's not kind! That's racist.
3) All skin is beautiful - you're being mean.
4) That’s not a good choice.
It's important to emphasize it's not ok to say something about their skin color back - no need to go down to their level. And then to always tell us about it so we can handle further if needed. ⠀⠀⠀
6) Incorporate anti-racism vocabulary!
With Bubba during quarantine, we've recently started incorporating vocabulary words into our daily walks and chats.
We do the following with words:
1) Introduce the word, use it in a sentence
2) Ask him to repeat after us
3) Reinforce throughout the week on story time, normal conversation... we intentionally find ways to bring up the word in conversation or change the words in books we read.
4) Since we craft a lot, we try incorporate the word into our drawings... this is easier with some words than others (like our word earlier this week was GIGANTIC)... but we can stretch our imagination for some of these.
I provided words for a few different ages - some of the more complex ones like stereotypes or prejudice would be more suited for older kids. These are just ideas to help you get started as you intentionally incorporate and teach your littles.
7) Buy at least one book to diversify your child's bookshelf!
If you've been thinking about it and haven't done it- go now!
Support a black owned bookstore while you're at it. Suggestions for bookstores are from @vashtiharrison an illustrator I really like (check out her Little Leaders book)!
If you have the resources, by books that promote other cultures and disabilities as well... but I get that it gets overwhelming to research so your simple action for today is at least one!
There are tons of books out there now (more so than when we were growing up) with more books coming out all the time! Follow @hereweread, @weneeddiversebooks or @toddlerswhoread on Instagram for some amazing recommendations on books showcasing all types of diversity.
8) Do an inventory of your toys. Do you need to add more diversity to what your kids play with?
Look at all the toys, puzzles and games your kids have. Do you need to include more diversity in the characters and genders of what they play with?
Check out my inventory of our playroom here.
9) Family Movie Night
As a family, we've been watching way more shows and movies during the #stayhome #covidlife. Today's #beantiracistchallenge is to watch a movie about black history, racism or black joy. ⠀⠀⠀
There are several lists out there for family friendly movies, but haven't found a lot out there for Bubba's age - almost 5. I was hoping Ruby Bridges would be good since its main character is only slightly older, but watching the trailer I decided it would be way too scary for him with the people yelling at the little Ruby - plus it's rated for slightly older ages (10+ per reviews). He loves The Princess Frog (movie) and Doc McStuffins (show) and are great age appropriate movies!
I’d like to check out Akeelah and the Bee or Hidden Figures since he's getting into space stuff a bit - but they are also intended for slightly older kids.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Hate you Give, Remember the Titans, Selma, the Color Purple, Just Mercy, Black Panther, the Jackie Robinson story and Harriet also seem good for teens and tweens. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I personally remember watching Guess Who's Coming to Dinner when I was in Middle School - my dad was a big Sidney Poitier fan, which I literally just realized was probably not very common for an immigrant from India in the 70s. He also had us watch Roots, To Kill a Mockingbird and I'm sure others - I wonder if he was consciously making us learn about racism and black history? I'll have to ask him! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Take stock of the shows your kids watch on a regular basis. Are there only mainly white characters / animals / fictional characters? May be time to introduce more shows!
10) Celebrate Black History
Today's #beantiracistchallenge is to #celebrateblackhistory! It's important to teach children about the contributions of different races to our society. And to normalize Black people in a wide variety of professions they may not see in everyday life.
Here are a few "poems" about famous Black Inventors we put together!
11) Names and Accents
Insist your kids teach people how to say their own names correctly. I have this struggle with Bubba whose name to me is pretty phonetic, but ALWAYS gets mispronounced, especially at school. But it’s his name, and uniquely his and I make an extra effort to teach him to correct people. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This also works the other way - teach your kids if they don't understand the first time, to politely ask the person to repeat it slower, if needed.
Also, teach them that people have different accents because of where they are from or where they grow up (even within the US!). If your child thinks an accent sounds funny or is hard to understand, praise that the person knows another language – how cool is that!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
12) Get Comfortable with the term “White Privilege”.
A few years ago, a FB acquaintance posted a flier about a workshop that said something like "White People: Come Learn about how Your Privilege is destroying America" or something equally confrontational. I commented that I didn't think this was particularly constructive, and if I was white, I'd feel immediately defensive and accused of something I had no control over. But, that's kind of the point. White privilege isn't just a buzzword, it's a fact. It's not meant to make white people feel guilty about being white. It's about recognition that your life hasn't been harder just because of the color of your skin, and in fact, you've directly benefited from it. Not to say you haven't struggled at all if you were white, but generally, it wasn't your whiteness that was causing your struggles. And if we as a society can't get comfortable talking about white privilege, how do you eliminate it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So, now for your homework - really think about types of white privilege. It's important for us to normalize and talk about white privilege to get over the discomfort. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Doesn't have to be privileges you specifically have (whether you're white or not), but generally. Like for example, white representation in movies - it's a privilege to grow up with seeing people that look like you in movies, books, tv shows, toys, etc. Or it's a privilege to view the police as protectors.⠀⠀
13) Talk to Your Children About Privilege.
When I first saw this video about privilege a few years ago, I thought it was a great visual depiction of privilege. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Privilege is complex to talk to kids about, but important for many reasons: including self- awareness, gratitude and developing empathy and understanding of others. A conversation about privilege should start with recognizing your own - whether it's based on your race, religion, gender, income, citizenship, etc.
Today's #BeAntiRacistChallenge is to show this video to your children as a segway to discuss privilege & specifically white privilege (note: I would never recommend as an educator to do this with one of your classes!).
An activity you can try is the paper toss. Line up kids front to back different distances from a trash can and give them each a paper ball. They all have the same opportunity to make the ball in the trash, and some in the back will, but the ones in the front will have it way easier!
14) Check your Privilege
Whether it's due to your race, gender, income level, citizenship, sexuality - you have privilege that others don't just by being born.
Think of 5 privileges unique to you and discuss with your littles!
1) I didn't have to pay for college.
2) I hold a US passport.
3) People aren't inherently scared of me when they look at me.
4) I don't have to hide my heterosexuality from anyone.
5) I have health and dental insurance and easy access to healthcare.
Work on Yourself
I did want to focus this mostly on parental resources for kids, but I think these apply to both yourself as a person and as a parent.
15) Model behavior!
- Call out racism.
- Include people of different backgrounds and diversity in your circle of friends / professionals you see.
- Educate yourself.
- Get involved!
16) Think about how white / euro-centric culture has influenced you and your implicit biases.
I love looking at art- we go to art museums of all kinds, visit art galleries (not as much as I'd like anymore with Bubba), go to art festivals, etc. We're members of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston @mfahouston and love going to their exhibits and getting their exhibition books.
Even with all that, I can only name a couple artists that aren't white/ euro centric - we've gone to plenty of exhibits that display art of POC artists - and while I remember the art, I can't remember their names. We just don't see them celebrated and talked about like the Monets and Picassos of the world - and in my jumbled head, they don't stick 😥
All this is to point out how much a euro centric white culture influences what we think is beautiful - my favorite art period is Impressionism. The last few years, I've been acutely aware of how my view of beautiful art is so heavily influenced by the euro art we learned about in school.
Same goes for food - so many ratings, restaurant guides defer to a European (and esp French) standard. I don't know about y'all, but I've been to some AMAZING restaurants, but would take the flavors of my mom's chicken biryani or curry over all of them.
All this goes into the implicit biases we form everyday.
17) Vote Educatedly and Take Your Littles with you!
Any major policy change is going to come from your local leaders. Samir and I vote in EVERY. SINGLE. ELECTION. Primaries, run offs, general, federal, state, local - whatever it is, we go vote (usually early!) and generally go as a family and take Bubba with us. We also attend every district and State Democratic convention we are able to so we can hear from leaders about the platform, resolutions and major issues that are being worked on.
When you vote on everything, it takes a bit of time and research, especially when you get down to ALL the judges. Aside from checking candidate websites, here's how we prepare:
1) Our county puts out our sample ballot specific to our district so we know exactly what's up for vote and who's on the ballot.
2) We check who has endorsed each candidate. In our area, we have some pretty strong caucuses that hold endorsement meetings where candidates come to make their cases. We actively look at the Vote the Caucus cards of GLBT, Black, Latinx and women's groups (we have multiple of each! ) to see who they've endorsed- I also follow a couple of key ones on Facebook because sometimes members will post about who not to vote for and why. If you're in Houston, check out the Erik Manning spreadsheet-he puts together all the endorsements in one place!
3) In our area, the League of Women voters puts out a guide about key candidates with good info
4) For the judges- I also consult with my lawyer friends... this is probably one of the places I cross party lines the most - they give input on the judges fairness, timeliness, and treatment of people.
So your actions for today's #beantiracistchallenge are:
1) Register to vote!
2) Know your early voting location and figure out where to get your ballot - start with your state's Secretary of State website
3) Find at least 2 caucuses with endorsement cards in your area that you would want to see endorsements from
4) See if LOWV puts out a guide for your area or if there are others!
18) Finally, continue to educate yourself and really listen to others' experiences - don't immediately go to the "Devil's Advocate" position.
Learn about calls to defund the police and abolish the police. Also recognize these terms mean different things to different people so research a variety of views and figure out what makes sense to you and what doesn’t. Most importantly, understanding the “why” will help guide you to the “what” and “how”.
Again, this by no means is meant to be a comprehensive, do it one time and done guide. Just like recycling to protect the environment or volunteering in your community, being antiracist and raising antiracist children is a continued, intentional effort.