"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." – Desmond Tutu
ICYMI: Last Saturday, eight people lost their lives at three local day spas in Atlanta; six of them were Asian-American women. Although the suspect said it wasn’t a racially motivated attack, police say it’s too early to know. Regardless, this shocking event has opened up conversations, debates, and rallies on the growing unease and increasing anti-Asian violence in the US. Just a day after the attack in Atlanta, two Asian women were racially targeted and attacked in New York. One of the victims was leaving a protest over the very issue, Asian hate.
These horrifying scenes of racism we are witnessing sadly aren’t new. The recent events came just a week after the first anniversary of the shooting of Breonna Taylor, an African-American woman, who was killed during a botched raid on her home by police. Since then, George Floyd, an unarmed, African-American man, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, after being arrested for attempting to pay for a pack of cigarettes with a fake $20 note.
All of these attacks have led to an outpouring of anger, outrage and sadness throughout America and across the world. But what does this mean for us here in Singapore? And 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
Whether these issues directly impact your family or not, parents should still talk to their kids about race, privilege and how to counter racial socialisation and racial bias. We should already be in conversation about the topic with our children. Despite having legislation that protects us and our families from violent forms of racism in the country, societal privilege, and causal 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.
Talking about race with your kids
Great – so you’re thinking of starting a conversation with your kids about race. 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 at 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 this 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 how to talk 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 that 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. 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, The 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 complied by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein for more articles to read, podcasts to listen to, films and TV series to watch to educate and inform yourself.
How else you can 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 to use your platform to speak up. And remember, it’s never too early to talk to your kids about race.