Updated: Aug 15, 2020
As a mother of two black children and one white child (from a previous marriage), it pains me to think how they will experience the world in a very different way. My husband, Roland (who is black), and I will need to have very different ‘sit-down’ conversations with them. This is one of the many ways I have learned about my white privilege, so I wanted to share it with you.
Here are some discussions we will have with our black children, and not our white child:
1. How to interact with police officers.
“You must remain calm at all times. You must keep your hands visible at all times. If you need to reach for something in your pocket, in the glove box or anything you must ask for permission and move slowly…”
2. How to be careful about what you say as to not reinforce a stereotype.
“If you make that joke in your speech about being late for first class it will be received in a different way then you intend…”
3. How to deal with being the only person of colour in the room.
“Baby, when you walk into that classroom for the first time a lot of people might stare at you."
4. How to politely tell people to stop touching your hair.
“They shouldn't touch your hair, it's not a petting zoo. I know you are annoyed and it took you all morning to sculpt that masterpiece…”
5. What to say when someone asks “What are you? Where are you from? …. Right, your parents are both Canadian but I mean WHAT ARE you?”
“I hear you, it's frustrating that even though white people are all immigrants to this land, for some reason it’s acceptable for white people to be Canadian but if you’re anything but First Nations or Caucasian you can’t possibly be Canadian. You have to be from somewhere else, which makes no sense at all and is annoying…”
6. Why you being angry may result in different consequences than if your white friend is angry.
“People may get more scared or feel more threatened if you raise your voice and express your anger which could lead to…”
7. How you will need to work twice as hard to earn the same degree of respect offered to others for nothing.
“When you walk into that room, you will not be assumed to be financially secure, smart, strategic, or educated. You will need to prove everything you are and work twice as hard for every ounce of respect.”
8. Why you are being treated like a criminal instead of a patron.
“I know, it is not fair having security follow you when you shop..."
Please, dig deep, find your voice and talk to everyone around you including your children about race. Not sure what to say? Scared you’ll make a mistake? Me too. ALL THE TIME. It’s ok, it doesn’t need to be perfect. The more we talk, the more we make mistakes, the more we learn. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it is not necessarily a bad thing - it means you are growing.
Racism exists here in Canada and we all have a responsibility to make changes. We need to work together. If you want to get involved please:
Sign a Petition:
This petition calls for the release of documentation from police-involved deaths by race. We need to stop hiding and protecting and start changing. Sign here.
Educate Yourself & Your Kids:
13th - This Netflix documentary reveals the racism that exists in the US justice system and the consequences of that.
The Hate you Give - This heartbreaking film explores the relationship between police and people of colour.
When They See Us - This true story is difficult but so incredibly important to watch.
If Beale Street Could Talk - This movie illustrated to me so many things I could relate to, new young love and looking for an apartment but then things start happening that I will never have to go through because I am white.
Books for you:
The Skin We’re In, by Desmond Cole (Canadian). An incredibly brilliant and courageous writer who exposed racism within the Toronto police force.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. If you are confused about systemic racism and how it manifests itself this is a great read. As a reminder, First Nation’s and Black incarceration rates are disproportionately high in Canada.
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. This classic novel, published in 1952 should be essential reading, alongside To Kill a Mockingbird.
Books for your children:
Finding the right book for your child will be very dependent on their age. Pick a couple from this list and spend time reading and talking about the message. One of my personal favourites is Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison