Talking to Children About Race - Raising a Generation to Confront Racial Injustice
Raising a Generation to Confront Racial Injustice
This simple, and by no means exhaustive post, is for those who wish to raise a generation to confront racial injustice and devaluation of our black brothers and sisters in humanity.
Our Deen teaches us to stand firm for justice and to change evil where we see it. In bringing up the next generation, in the way we raise future adults; who will be insha’Allah, leaders, employers, teachers, law enforcement officers and husbands, wives, friends, neighbours; we can commit to stamping out inequality.
Of course, this will not be achieved simply by taking the steps below, but it is a list of ways to start talking to your children about race.
Look Within Yourself
This is a time for deep reflection and a look within. Even if that makes us uncomfortable. Challenge your own belief and the stereotypes you hold.
One thing to remember is that we all have biases which have been learnt from the information in our environments. This does not mean that you cannot move forward. Change your heart first and make the intention to move forward with sincerity.
“The white is not superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white - except by piety." - Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Research shows that children from 6 months start to notice racial differences, and develop racial biases from as young as 2-4 years. This is why it’s important to do the following things from a young age:
Choose diverse picture books and toys – a powerful way to ensure your child doesn’t develop prejudice, is to make sure that the things that bring them joy, represent the real world. They should see black characters in books that that they love and enjoy, and dolls that they play with.
Have open conversations – use picture books to promote conversations about the diverse
characters. What your child says might be surprising, but you can use it as an opportunity to correct their biases.
Make connections – Don’t restrict yourself to only interacting with people from the same
background as you. It’s easy to gravitate to those the same as us, as we anticipate we will have lots in common, but you’ll soon realise you have plenty of ways to connect with just about anyone.
Be a Role Model
Don’t just have the conversations with your children without following through with actions to back up what you teach them. Show them through your own character and dealings with others that you do not discriminate based on race.
This can be reflected in your day to day interactions with people, but should also be reflected in the people you choose to make close bonds of friendship with, or if you are an employer, it can be reflected in those you entrust to be part of your team.
Watch yourself for seemingly small cues of prejudice in your interactions. Children are big imitators, and they pick up on every subtle little thing you do.
We exhibit a whole range of diversity in our appearance and our cultures. It’s OK to recognise our differences as long as we understand that we are all part of one team, and those differences are Allah’s beautiful creation. The differences don’t make any of us superior over the other.
This may be put into action if your child makes an observation about another person. Instead of hurriedly quietening them and changing the subject, you can take the opportunity to have an open conversation about the beauty of diversity.
Be Anti-Racist Together
Encourage your children to take part in any kind of activism that is safe for them. Teach them to be just and speak out for justice. If they see or hear a friend or family member being racist, give them the confidence to call it out with respect and good intentions to help others realise their mistake and change.
As your child grows, continue to supply great resources in the form of books or documentaries to educate them on black history. Education and understanding is key to feeling empathy towards others and what they have experienced.
May Allah make us among the just. Ameen.
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Illustrations by Maria Migo @mariamigoillustration