How to talk to your kids about race? Start with a song

Dear Tunester,

It’s been a week to end all weeks. I know we all feel raw, emotional, fragile, and scared. For ourselves. For our children. For the future. But I can feel change on the horizon. Can’t you? It keeps my hope alive.

 

It’s taken a lot to shake our country to its core: a pandemic that sent us into our homes indefinitely, caused financial insecurity for so many, and disproportionately affected the black community. And on top of that, another tragic, unnecessary death of a black American. 

 

We don’t have our regular trips to the market, days at work or pick-ups from daycare, to distract us from what is bubbling up in our country and in ourselves. And we get it (most of us). We feel it deeply.

 

This country needs to change NOW.

 

In today’s post I’m not going to give you a list of books for kids, or ways to educate yours. I know you can find that stuff elsewhere and you should.

 

What I can offer you is a new song to help you open the conversation with your kids.

 

It wasn’t easy to write it. It’s not perfect. But we’re all learning how to talk about this, how to understand the experience of our black neighbors, and most of all: how to take action.

 

The other day I opened the topic of race with my 11 year old. He said “I’m afraid to talk about it with friends because I’m scared I’ll say something racist.” 

 

Oh man. That hit me hard. Not just because it is sad to hear that he doesn’t feel he can talk about it but because I identified. I know he is expressing what so many of us feel all the time:  What’s the right thing to say to be supportive but not accidentally offend?

 

A couple of days later he told me a story I had never heard: a few years earlier he had said the “N” word at school. He didn’t know what it meant and was using it out of context. I’m not sure where he had even heard it to begin with. His teacher immediately reacted, brought the vice principal who spoke to the whole class about the matter. My son understood the gravity of it. He also felt ashamed to the point where he didn’t even tell me about it later.

 

So there you have point A leading to point B. 

 

Here’s a kid who was curious, did not harbor judgment, and was misinformed. Immediately, due to the systemic issues in our country he got the feeling that he should never broach the topic.

 

My son did not set out to discriminate. He was aware of our family value and the school value of acceptance. He just didn’t know the word or how loaded it was.

 

I wonder now if the school could have handled it differently, opening the conversation, gently telling a child what words are offensive, and welcoming curiosity and questions about difference.

 

That’s our job with our kids. Let’s teach them non-judgment and encourage curiosity. Let’s teach them words and phrases that might be offensive. And let’s teach them to ask their black neighbor if what they said is offensive in any way. 

 

That’s actually what I did yesterday after I wrote the song. I called a black friend and asked her to listen. I asked her if anything was triggering. I had never done that before about a song I wrote and I felt that was a big step in the right direction for me. 

 

So that’s what I mean when I say change is on the horizon. I find it very encouraging. But we need to go through lots of growing pains before we get there.

 

 

So how have you broached the topic with your kids? Please comment below and let us know. We all need some support on this.

 

Do you have a friend who could use a song to illustrate the predicament we are in? Send them the Tuesday Tune In and tell them to sign up below so they’ll get the next one too.

4 thoughts on “How to talk to your kids about race? Start with a song”

  1. In a moment of link- and resource-overload, a single intentional video like this goes so far. Thank you for writing it, singing it and sharing it.

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