I have two children who are mixed race. Their father is African-American and I am Southeast Asian. Fortunately for me, my fears are not as heightened as other mothers who have children that are 100% black. My children get to feel more safe than others because they have the privilege of being half Asian. They get to use the safety that comes with being part Asian in America. Yes, more Asians are being targeted this year due to COVID-19 and I’m not dismissing the fear that comes with that issue. The discrimination against Asians during this pandemic is a whole other article topic in itself. However, for the purposes of this article, what I want to share is how we can make sure our children do not grow up to use their privilege to hurt others, especially black lives.
By now, every parent has seen the footage of Amy Cooper calling the police on an African American man, blatantly using her white privilege to attempt to get him arrested. We have also seen the horrific video of Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed on George Floyd’s neck until he no longer could breath. We have seen countless injustices against black people in the media. I couldn’t help but think, although my children do not have as much privilege as these two Caucasian Americans: Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin, they are still susceptible to the same behaviors if not guided properly in this unjust society we live in.
Here are some suggestions to ensure our children do not misuse their privilege.
We must educate ourselves before we can properly educate our children about this topic
Take the step to educate yourselves about the different types of biases: implicit or explicit bias, unconscious or conscious bias, etc. Learn the various examples that fall under the definitions for each of these terms. When we can fully comprehend what these mean, then we can better educate our children about how each bias plays their part with people who use their privilege as an advantage over others or as a weapon to hurt others.
We must be self aware of our own biases and privilege
Whether we realize it or not, regardless of what color our skin is, we all have some form of these biases in us. Understanding these terms will help us correct ourselves. It will help us realize when we ourselves are not leading by example for our children. We can’t teach our children to not use their privilege or be aware of certain types of biases, if we can’t be aware of our own or acknowledge that we have them, too. It’s not enough to acknowledge either, we must intentionally work on correcting our biases. Which is not an overnight task.
We must teach our kids about their own privileges as well as what white privilege in America means
Children are very open and aware that white privilege is a very real benefit for white people. White privilege is a system of benefits for white people and a system of denial of those benefits to people of color. We must teach our children through real life examples and stories of people of color who have been victims of white privilege. Two very real life examples that have opened the eyes of many in this country: Amy Cooper and Derek Chauvin.
We must check our children when they take advantage of others with their privilege or display entitled behavior
It’s easy to say ‘ah they’re just kids’, and dismiss the behavior. However, kids that were allowed to get away with this behavior as children, grow into adults. The adults using their privilege to take advantage of others don’t see anything wrong with it because no one has ever shown them otherwise. When I say, check our children, I mean, take that moment as an opportunity to educate our children on how their actions are affecting others that do not have the same privilege. Checking our children immediately versus dismissing it as something harmless can help them be a better friend to those that are at a disadvantage due to the color of their skin.
With everything going on in the world, there are many parents working hard to ensure we don’t raise children that use their privilege as a weapon against others. However, if you read this and felt defensive or guilty, that is a perfectly natural reaction to have. Many, including myself have had a wake up call when I realized I, too have created unfair situations for others due to my own privilege. It doesn’t make us bad people for not realizing it but it does make us bad people if we are aware but continue to use it as a weapon to hurt others.
The first step is acknowledging your own privilege and biases, then intentionally working to ensure that yourself and others, especially our children, are self aware and not using privilege as a weapon that hurts or kills others.