White Parents, It’s Time To Get The Job Done This Black History Month |
Black History Month is a celebration of black excellence and you are invited.
Right now, all over the United States, black families are teaching the next generation of black youth with intent and care. Black History Month is a time to consciously focus and celebrate the empowerment and achievement of black people, as well as the legacy of strength and anti-racism. Now is the time to honor the whole history of blacks, rooted in the rites, rituals and intellectual traditions of the entire African diaspora.
Black History Month is over 28 days of remembrance. From a black perspective, the month is a deep recognition of the beauty, pride and incredible faith and courage of black people despite over 400 years of oppression.
Rather than a moment to explain everything about the heroism of Harriet Tubman or the genius of cultural presenter Hank Aaron, Black History Month is a celebration of black shine, community values and commitments to justice that are lived 365 days a year.
So what does Black History Month mean to teach white youth with intent and care?
For white families, this may seem trickier. Whites who are parents today may not have been brought up with an emphasis on black history, so they may feel like they don’t know enough or what to do. Some parents may know that it’s important for all of us to celebrate black excellence, but worry that participation in the home is a form of ownership. Others realize that the legacy of racial inequality and white privilege are the reasons why black achievements are so remarkable. Recognizing this can seem complicated, even overwhelming.
Well, where to begin ? We want to suggest that you start where you are. Here are 12 ideas of things to do (and a few things to avoid). Why 12 ideas? Because black history deserves your attention all year round, and you can commit to putting a new idea into practice every month.
Lift many black figures
Black History Month is a great time to learn more about Black excellence a continuing part of family life. If you only know a handful of famous and accomplished black people, now is the time to broaden the horizons of your children, and yours too. Pick up a resource – there are plenty of good ones – and every night at dinner, meet two people you’ve never heard of before.
Focus on black children and youth who have been freedom fighters
Children get excited when they hear about other children. But also, children get so many messages involving them that they have to wait until they are “grown up” to tell the difference. This is not true. What a great time to learn more about black youth who have made changes while teaching white youth that they can and do too.
Adopt the “both / and”
When we celebrate black history, there is a risk of sending a message that what we are celebrating is not also American history. It is important that we make it clear to white children that one of the effects of racism is that not enough of us have learned excellence from black people and that is why we need Black History Month. . It also means that we need to value and talk more about black history all the time; because black history is American history.
Celebrate black joy and black love
The fight against racism is not the only characteristic of black life. It is important not to inadvertently teach white youth that black people are defined by racism. Find a resource that highlights black cultural celebrations like Kwanzaa, the history of black intellectual thought and the glory of black dance in America, and learn from it as a family.
But teach the fight honestly
When we celebrate “firsts” it’s important to show why someone was a first. Talk about the structures of inequality that have prevented black Americans from fully accessing their rights in American democracy and where these barriers still exist today. Without this context, white youth may conclude that President Barack Obama or Vice President Kamala Harris, for example, are premieres because blacks were sort of late. Be explicit about the ways in which racism bothers people. Black history is not just a history of the past. It is done today.
Choose 12 books by black authors
Invite your children to make these selections and read together by next February. Doing this expands your knowledge and supports black literature, art and creativity. It also makes dialogue about race and learning about black history an integral part of family life.
Join a black-led organization
White children should learn that justice does not grow without people coming together to make it happen; this is just one of the many truths of black empowerment. Honor Black History Month by finding an organization where your family can join with others to create a more equitable world and connect for the long haul. Find a local chapter of Black lives matter or the NAACP, or join voter advocacy and criminal justice reform efforts led by black faith communities.
Ask your children what they are learning in school
American education systems have never provided a full, diverse, and festive account of the contributions of blacks. Parents can get into the habit of asking precisely what children are learning in school. This creates the opportunity to correct, clarify, and expand what they are learning. It might even help you identify a role in supporting your school by providing more comprehensive accounts of our shared racial history.
Focus on the community
Amanda Gorman, the first young poet laureate who gave a brilliant recitation during the presidential inauguration, talks about her family almost every time she talks. Stacey Abrams, the Georgian organizer, has just been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She constantly reminds people that her incredible accomplishments are those of many black women. Black empowerment and success is a story that emerges from the community. Helping white children appreciate this truth also helps them think about who they may be in community with.
Celebrate black leadership in your local community
Not all black people who excel are famous. There are people who lead with courage where you live. Who are the visionaries, justice workers and black Americans who have helped shape the community you enjoy and live in today? Ask this question with your children. Celebrate the responses. And then, find ways for your family to support these leaders.
Blacks are diverse
Blacks are also women who live off sexism. LGBTQ people are part of the black community. Support white youth in developing critical thinking skills by exploring the intersections between identities and justice movements. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, was started by three black women who were also gay. It is deeply inclusive and consistently recognizes the intersections between racial, gender and environmental justice, the rights of persons with disabilities and more, creating pathways to equity that honor the innate worth and dignity of all black life.
Dismiss the trap of perfectionism! We all have more to learn. It’s easy to get stuck if you think you need to know everything or be able to explain everything perfectly. Just start where you are. In fact, it is important for white youth to see adults showing humility and curiosity. Young people benefit when parents say, “I’m not sure. Let’s see ” ; “I never learned this and I am happy to learn it now with you”; and even “I thought I knew but it turns out I was wrong, I’m grateful for the chance to understand it differently.” Next thing you know, they will also model such behaviors and teach adults about black history.
White families can celebrate Black History Month in an authentic way. When they do, they contribute to the multiracial invitation to raise a generation of young people capable of honoring black excellence and participating fully in the journey of democracy and justice for all.