February is Black History Month and serves as a great time to discuss inclusion, diversity, and racial inequalities as a family. It’s never too early to include children in this conversation and allow them to talk about their experiences and what they may already know about Black history.
Last summer, racial tension in our communities took center stage with police brutality at the forefront on television and on all social media platforms. Look around your neighborhood, school, place of worship, or your community in general and discuss different races and how they contribute to your family. How are they different? How does your kids’ exposure to media affect them? Do these images and experiences make them fearful? Empathetic? Exploring other cultures, customs or iconic people of color and their stories is a great place to start, but identifying and discussing their struggles also is a vital part of the conversation.
Teaching children about how other races and cultures have enriched our lives because of their contributions in music, writing, inventions, leadership, and other skills and roles can be eye-opening. What are some of your family’s favorite foods, movies or music? Perhaps discussing the origins of these favorite things will make your children better understand how and why America is a melting pot and where that terminology comes from that describes the culture of the United States – and why all of these contributions are important.
People often think about Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when they think about Black History Month. Those are great role models and subjects of discussion but don’t forget about Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in 1947, or author Zora Neale Hurston, whose book Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937 explored racism and gender roles in the early 1900s in the South. Just last month, MLB great Hank Aaron passed away at age 86. Aaron not only is known for hitting more home runs than any other baseball player in history, but he is also known for speaking out against pervasive racism in the MLB and broke racial barriers throughout his career.
Black History Month is the perfect time to talk to your families about people of color. Some children may be too young to remember when President Barack Obama became the first African American president in 2008 – but the swearing-in of Vice President Kamala Harris, the first female, first African American, and Asian American, is so recent that this historic event offers a discussion about inclusion and diversity. These are important milestones – for children to see people of color representing all people in the highest leadership roles is incredible.
Use this month to do some explorative research about different races and indulge in discussions with your family about including everyone while also celebrating the differences and successes of all people.
Brittany Farrar is the regional director of Middle Tennessee programs and Tennessee Specialized Crisis Services for Youth Villages. Crisis services are still available 24/7 if your child needs support. Youth Villages is available and prepared to assist your family during this time. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741.