Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Having "The Talk" with my Kids

Posted Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at 9:13 PM
This picture is when they were younger because now at 9 and 12 they can't stand to be around one another long enough to get a photo!😂

In the 21st-century it is necessary that I have "the talk" with my children. Before you start thinking about health class in high school, I'm talking about another kind of talk. I'm talking about the white privilege talk. I'm sure somebody is already rolling their eyes saying, "Gee whiz, do we have to talk about this all the time? Why are white people always taking the blame for everything bad in the world?"

I hear you and I understand what you're saying. It can't be said that white people in general are bad, just as it can't be said the only white people have bias. I have traveled all over this world and throughout the United States, and I have seen bias in every place I have been, including my own home. Moreover, I would never give my children a complex, thinking that they have something inside of them that is just ugly and horrible. My kids are good kids for the most part. They're kind to others to a fault and they love to meet new people. I've never seen them pull away from somebody who was different from them and I've seen them stand up to bullies when others would not. My children are decent in school, they misbehave at times and they have hopes and dreams just like every other child in this world.

But my kids are blond, almost blue-eyed children. So how do I explain to them that they will never be pulled over for no reason, that they will never be followed in a department store, and they could walk into virtually any setting here and abroad and just by the virtue of being white will not be suspected immediately of wrongdoing and will be waited on first? How do I explain to them that being white gives them a status that is not deserved by action but is perceived by skin color? How do I explain to them that the experiences of their friends of color are not always good or fair, and it is up to them to stand up to those who are abusing these friends? How do I explain to them that those jokes being told by Black comedians on YouTube are not jokes that they should be repeating? How do I explain to my son that the N-word should never be come out of his mouth ever, I don't care if he is listening to Cypress Hill?

This is what I worry about when I talk to my kids. How do I get them to see the big picture and how they must resist wondering and arguing about their choices as an individual when seen in this greater context? How do I articulate that they should be proud to be who they are but yet realize that they are not to gauge everyone else by how they look, talk, act, etc?

I strive to achieve this by having conversations, by emulating how I want them to behave and by admitting fault when I am wrong. I let them talk through their concerns and we explore together how we can use the power of white privilege for positive change. We can use our voices and actions to help correct what is wrong without silencing our friends of color.

My kids have had the privilege of being exposed to people from many different color and ethnic backgrounds. They have developed a true appreciation for the concept of difference. They also have a compassion that amazes me at times. They have corrected me on more than one occasion by repeating my own words about compassion back to me, and for that I am ever so humbled, proud and grateful.

So if you identify as white and you are reading this, please know I am not blaming you for anything. We as white people in 2017 didn't create this system of inequality and inequity; colonialism did. But we have most certainly benefitted from a system that has set people of color up for failure and identity crises all over the world and instilled a system that's has created a hierarchy that recognizes whitenessas the ideal. It's up to us to level out the playing field and willingly forfeit this power. That's a hard concept to understand because people don't like to give up power. Next time you have a conversation about this with your friends of color (and bycolor I mean any color or ethnic background), if you have a reaction to something they are telling you, stop for a minute and ask why? It's OK to ask the question. That is part of the problem; people have not been allowed to talk and ask their questions. But once you asked the question, be willing to listen and feel the answer. Empathy is an important human tool that we do not have enough of. In the end, we might not be able to completely understand or feel the exact same way that are friends of color do; however, it's not necessary for me to experience it in order for me to feel for them, to respect their point of view and think about how I would feel if this were happening to me.

It's baby steps. These conversations bring me and my children closer together because we know that there is no dialogue that is too difficult for us to approach if we have love, empathy and compassion for each other and those around us. The good news is that we have more successes than failures when it comes to this and that gives us hope.