"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." – Desmond Tutu
Parents should talk to their kids about race, privilege and how to counter racial socialisation and bias, whether it directly impacts your family or not. We should already be in conversation about the topic with our children. Despite legislation protecting us and our families from violent forms of racism, societal privilege and casual racism exist in Singapore, even if we don’t realise it.
So, if you haven’t already started the conversation with your kids, it’s not too late. It’s the perfect opportunity to start, and it’s crucial now more than ever. Recognise your privilege and the inequality around you, and choose your words carefully when you speak to your kids, family, friends and strangers you meet, especially in a country that strives for racial harmony. So, how do we deal with the important issue of race when it comes to talking to our kids? Here’s some sound advice and tips for families.
Kickstarting the conversation: How to talk to your kids about race
Talking about race with your kids
So you’re considering starting a conversation with your kids about race – great. But do kids even understand what we’re talking about? In an article for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM), Dr Erin Winkler, an associate professor in African and African Diaspora Studies, says yes. “Adults often think they should avoid talking with young children about race or racism because doing so would cause them to notice race or make them racist. In fact, when adults are silent about race or use ‘colourblind’ rhetoric, they actually reinforce racial prejudice,” she says. “Starting at a very young age, children see patterns and try to assign ‘rules’ to explain what they see. Young children infer that the racial inequities they see are natural and justified. So despite good intentions, we are in fact contributing to the development of their racial biases.”
If you’re looking to understand how kids of different ages perceive race, The Conscious Kid has a great Instagram post (below) that briefly explains why it’s never too early to start talking about it.
At this juncture, take some time to watch the video below. This shows Black parents explaining to their kids how to deal with the police. You’ll also learn how these issues have affected Black lives in the United States.
There’s also this great resource written by an Asian-American mum on the recent surge in anti-Asian violence, with plenty of first-hand tips and advice on talking to your kids about the issue.
Tools to help you educate the next generation on racism
The easiest way to start a conversation is to look at the resources you can tap into. And there’s plenty! For example, there are tons of children’s books available that can help parents kickstart a conversation about race and anti-racism. An article in the Washington Post links to several great suggestions.
What about anti-racist activism? Embrace Race has a great list of children’s books for you and your kids to get started on. Brightly‘s reading list can help you to raise anti-racist children. Books for Littles also has a curated list of children’s books on dismantling anti-Asian racism. Oh, and don’t forget our own curated list of books that celebrate diversity, too.
Older kids and parents who’d like to read can also check out BuzzFeed News’ article, An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism, which lists books that can help you understand the emotions behind the protests. Or, you can check out this anti-racism resource compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein for more articles to read, podcasts to listen to, and films and TV series to watch to educate and inform yourself – which brings us to our next point…
Watch animation, documentaries and films
Want to explore different cultures? Just grab some popcorn, turn on the TV, and you’ll find a variety of multi-racial films on local channels in Singapore. Even Disney films, like Encanto and The Princess and the Frog, showcase diverse cultures beautifully. For more kid-friendly foreign films, check out Kids World Citizen‘s list, and if you want something closer to home, Roots Sg has you covered. Get ready for an enjoyable and eye-opening cinematic journey!
Immerse in the cultures and traditions of different races
A great way to encourage your child to understand the Singaporean racial diaspora is by immersing them in the traditions of various cultures. This approach can be a fun and educational journey for everyone. Some ways to do this are by celebrating festivals with people of different ethnicities, trying their cuisines, making their unique festival decorations and sweets, and visiting different local markets for a deep dive into traditions. Lucky for us, Singapore has many heritage centres and museums to explore, and each one unleashes a wealth of knowledge of the foundational ethnicities in Singapore. Our advice? Pay each a visit and keep a tab of their pages for upcoming events.
How else can you help on the topic of racism?
Now that we’ve started educating ourselves and our kids, here are some other ways you can continue to help. After all, what good does it do if we only use our words and not actions to combat racial prejudice?
Here are some ways you can do so:
- Take some time to sign petitions to seek change.
- Help out non-profit organisations locally whenever you can, like by volunteering with OnePeople.sg.
- Donate to international and local charities if you have the means to do so.
But perhaps the best thing you can do is to notice the pattern of your language and change it if necessary, be brave enough to correct your family and friends and use your platform to speak up. Remember, it’s never too early to talk to your kids about race.