Social Work Professor Writes in WSJ About Zimmerman Verdict
Social Work Assistant Professor Catherine Pearlman, writing for the Wall Street Journal, offers tips about talking to children about race
in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial.
Now, as a parent, I am concerned about preventing race from being a taboo subject for my children. Our differences make us special. If we pretend those differences don’t exist, we invalidate culture, heritage, customs, and everything that makes us who we are.
Read the whole piece here
Throughout the recent George Zimmerman trial I heard many parents talk about fearing for the safety of their children. What I haven’t heard is how parents can use Trayvon Martin’s story as a vehicle for change.
People are often apprehensive about confronting racial issues because they fear sounding prejudiced, or they worry the conversation will spiral out of control. Here are ways to talk to your kids about not only George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, but race as a whole:
- Simply ask your kids if they have heard about Trayvon Martin. Find out what they know and what they think. Try not to give your opinion or give all the “right answers.” Allow for a conversation to emerge.
- For younger kids, it may not be appropriate to discuss the shooting. You can use the idea of racial profiling or discrimination to start the discussion. Make it personal. Ask your child how he would feel if he were judged to be dangerous or suspect because he is left-handed, blue-eyed, short, skinny, etc.
- Be curious and humble. People generally appreciate your willingness to learn about them. Show your kids you don’t know everything about race but are interested in learning more. Ask a neighbor what it is like to be a different race or, “What do you love most about your culture or heritage?” Invite some kids from school to come over and ask their parents to make something from their culture for the meal. Then have each family present their dish and talk about it.
- Don’t panic if your child describes someone as “black” or “brown” or “African.” If there is a more correct way to describe someone, by all means offer the vocabulary. But remember that your child will learn more about your thoughts on race by your reaction than by what you say. Keep calm because it is OK to notice race, talk about it, think about it.
- Don’t make this a one-time chat. Use current events, books and movies about slavery, genocide, Martin Luther King, Jr., and civil rights to keep the conversation going.