Sarah Simpson column: Talking to the kids about racism

Sarah Simpson column: Talking to the kids about racism

it gave rise to a great discussion in the car on the way to and from the event.

I brought my children with me when I covered the Black Lives Matter rally at Charles Hoey Park on Friday. I hadn’t intended to, due to COVID, and knowing a lot of people would be there, but my husband was needed elsewhere so the kids had to come with me.

I’m lucky that there are parts of my job that I can bring my children to. What’s more, it’s a cause that they need to learn about. They need to grow up learning how poorly black people, in this case, and Indigenous people in Canada, have been treated throughout history up to, and including today. They need to know this is not OK and they need to understand that it is up to all of us, them included, to change that.

If anything, it gave rise to a great discussion in the car on the way to and from the event. I tried to be as honest as I could, keeping in mind my kids are four and five.

Over the weekend my son got into a fight with his neighbour friend — the only friend inside his bubble — and when they can’t play together it’s a bummer for everyone.

The fight escalated until both kids were not just being unkind to each other, but to their siblings and to their moms.

My neighbour and I separated the screaming, flailing children and, as I began to walk home with my son, he said the following:

“[Friend] is black.”

He’s not wrong.

“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked. Truthfully, I was thrown off a bit. On the heels of the rally, we’d talked at great length about what has been going on with the world and about the fact [Friend] was mixed race and how lots of people we know have different skin colours, but that shouldn’t matter; we are all humans.

It’s hard to explain to a five-year-old but I was doing my best.

“Actually, she’s more kind of brown,” he continued.

“What the heck, man!” I said. “It makes no difference!”

Then he told me he that he was feeling red (angry) but starting to calm down and feel a little blue (tired, sick, hurt, sad).

I stopped.

My son wasn’t talking about race at all. Here I was, worried that I was going to have to change my approach insofar as raising my kids to be good humans and mindful of our privilege and of issues of race, and he was telling me about his feelings. He was talking about the colour system they use at school when learning about the zones of regulation and how to explain their emotions.

Now, black and brown aren’t part of the four zones but he told me he made them up to express being “super angry” and such.

As we continued to walk home he said, “I’m not mad at [Friend] because [Friend] is black. I don’t care what colour [Friend] is.”

I talked to my neighbour about it as it’s an issue she faces both being the mother of mixed-race children and through her work.

“Taking time to talk with our own children or with others without passing judgment can help us gain valuable insight into how others view the world,” she said.

She noted that instead of me being quick to assume the topic needed to be discussed more with my child, simply through listening I discovered that he wasn’t worried about the colour of his friend’s skin but more that everyone deserves to have the freedom to be treated with respect and to not have others be unkind to them.

There’s a lesson there. For all of us.

“Kids see things often simply,” my neighbour continued. “No matter what age or colour of skin you may have, everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”

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