How to talk to your children about race, recent protests calling for justice

BOSTON — The images that we’ve seen on our screens over the last week have been very challenging to digest not only for adults but also for kids.

At this point, they’ve seen the videos and the protests and have probably asked some questions.

“I’m kind of scared because everyone keeps dying for no reason,” said David Whalen Jr. who attended one of the protests in Worcester.

But how do you do it? Sociologists say the first step is to care enough about your kids to have the tough conversations.

“The cop that beat up someone or choked someone, they all have parents,” said author Greg Palast. “What were those parents doing if they didn’t train their kids? Or did they simply train them in their own hate?”

Palast writes about race but also fathers kids of different races.

“She watched that eight minutes and she came to me and asked, ‘Am I in danger?’ And I had to tell her honestly, ‘Yes,’” said Palast. “If you’re going to confront American police and you’re a black skin young black female you are automatically, in some of their eyes, I’m not speaking for every cop that I have ever met, but I can tell you from my experience you are automatically guilty of a crime."

He says parents with black children have to have different conversations than parents without kids.

"We brought them up to understand that your white skin is a very special privilege where you can get away with things," said Palast. "I want my kids to care and I want my kids to understand that when people are angry and people are smashing the window, which I don’t agree with, but you better understand where that comes from."

Palast says it begins early, a reality that had him fighting back tears.

“They are seeing some pretty grim stuff on TV and on the street,” said Palast. “I think you have to say, ‘Look, America has a problem and we are counting on you, young kids, you’re going to fix it,’ I know it’s a heavy thing to lay on them.”

Here are 3 more tips from sociologist and author Margaret Hagerman, Ph.D.

  1. You’ll need to teach history to help kids understand the present. If you’re overwhelmed, do your own research.
  2. Listen to your kids on what they think about inequalities.
  3. Finally, actions speak louder than words.

Hagerman says these conversations need to be happening all the time, not just in the aftermath of racial tensions.

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