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African American History Month From Home—Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

The pandemic is giving us LOTS of family time. Usually in February we’d be taking the kids to library and museum programs for African American History events.

My wife and I feel strongly about righting wrongs of the past with extra attention to the achievements and contributions of African Americans. We’re steadily building a home library that shows the beautiful diversity of people, and I think that’s going to be our main activity this month. Any recommendations for books, or other activities we can do from home, to support social justice and reduce white privilege by how we raise our (white) children?

Still Marching From Home

Dear SMFH,

Racism spreads like a virus

Racism spreads like a virus if intentional actions aren’t taken.

A key concept parents can give their children is the infinite value of every person. This is modeled when you show respect to others and expect the same from your children. Your actions against injustice are likewise lessons to your children. If you have more than one child you have daily opportunities to help them arrive at solutions that are fair. Part of this lesson is that equal portions do not always result in the most fair solution. For example, a younger child cannot wait for a turn as long as an older child can. An older child can manage a larger cup of juice than a younger child can. 

This can lead to discussions of economic and other disparities to help your children develop an understanding of inequities. Inequities occur when we fail to recognize the realities of each person’s resources and abilities. Inequity in internet access impacts a student’s ability to get the most out of virtual school. A gifted musician may lack the money to pay for an instrument and music lessons, depriving them, and the world, of a natural talent. A walk to the grocery store is not possible in a neighborhood that is a food desert, leaving residents without cars no easy way to get fresh veggies and other healthy foods. A family with private health insurance can more easily correct a child’s vision with a fashionable pair of glasses than a family that depends on government programs for its health needs. And so on. Racism creates and exacerbates inequities.

Books and Books

There are many excellent books for children that showcase African Americans who have made significant contributions in U.S. history, which has been the usual approach to this month. There are also many that highlight lesser well-known individuals and events  from history. Other books zero in on the simple but powerful notion that human beings are all valuable and that ethnic differences and other differences don’t diminish this notion a bit.

You will find plenty of suggestions for raising anti-racist children through a short, well-organized, online publication produced by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Beyond the Golden Rule, a Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice is written by Dana Williams. The author acknowledges that there are sometimes difficult conversations when it comes to racism. She includes personal stories by parents with children of different ages, from preschool to teens. 

Looking for Black History Events? Here’s our roundup of celebrations, online activities and more in and around Maryland.

Slowly Moving Forward

Throughout history, those with privilege, power, position, and wealth have had advantages over those who do not. At our country’s founding, privilege belonged to white land-owning males. Although hardship can inspire determination, and scarcity can lead to great innovations, wealth and power provide easier options for overcoming challenges. When one’s problems are easily overcome, a person, a family, and a social group, can more toward progress and even more opportunities.   

One thing a family with some economic power can do is to support Black-owned businesses. Since the murder of George Floyd, online lists have sprung up to widen the customer base of companies. Conscientious shopping can create economic change, making the marketplace more equitable for African Americans. As you shop around (from home!) be sure to share your motivation for choosing Black-owned businesses with your children.

Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate puts a hopeful spin on learning history in order to move toward a better future:

“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished  … being  American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Register for Dr. Wood’s next parenting workshop on Zoom on Tuesday, February 9.

Read more of her Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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