I realized something today.
Well, I should say that I took ACTION on a realization today – I’ve had this realization long before today.
Despite the fact that my career is based on uncomfortable conversations, there are moments in my life when I do my best to avoid them. I’ve also noticed a pattern with my avoidance. I avoid difficult conversations with my kids. I know the impact that I have on their development as human beings, and frankly…it scares the shit out of me sometimes. Actually…all the time.
How do I explain, in the midst of an already unpredictable and emotionally chaotic time, that the Corona virus isn’t our biggest hurdle to jump right now as a country? As an entire world! So, I took my own advice this morning about the importance of HAVING the hard conversations.
I was eating lunch with the kids, and casually said, “I’m glad there’s a march happening downtown today,” as I scrolled through Facebook on my phone. To be honest, I set that up because I knew one of them would be curious and ask what the march was about. And they both did – almost simultaneously. So I began…
I asked if they knew what racism was. Their answer was, “Yeah, that’s when people say bad things for no reason about people who look different.” Mind you, they are 8 and 10, and I was content with their answer. However, I knew I couldn’t couldn’t chicken out and leave it there – and I didn’t.
I asked if they remembered learning about slavery. They said, “Yeah, that happened like…so long ago!”
“Yes,” I agreed, “…but unfortunately, people still believe that people with different colored skin are less than, or beneath people with white skin.” I waited…
“What?! Still?! But, I’m friends with (listed some of their friends who have different colored skin), and I don’t treat them bad!”
“Correct. You don’t. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people who do.”
I started to get a knot in my stomach, because I knew damn well I was avoiding the event that sparked the most recent worldwide march. So, I leaned in and told them. I told them about George Floyd. I told them how there are bad police officers, just like there are bad people who aren’t police officers. I told them that even though we, as a family, just see human beings, the truth is, some of their friends will be treated differently SOLELY based on the color of their skin.
They stood there sort of blank faced – probably wondering what this had to do with them since they aren’t racist. Then, I remembered a post I saw about the difference between “not being racist”, and being actively “anti-racism”. Like most kids, they needed to know specifically how this impacts them.
I explained that it’s one thing not to be racist, and another to stand up AGAINST racism. I gave examples of how they can play their part in this world by speaking up if they hear someone make racist comments, or make assumptions about someone based on race.
The hard truth in all of this? I’m not sure who learned more from the conversation – my kids…or me…