Hi. I’m Ann-Marie, Amanda’s cousin (Mandy, as I call her). I am a White woman, with a Black husband and two racially Brown, politically Black boys. I think it’s important to acknowledge this, as my thoughts and experiences do not represent everyone’s. Also, just because I am married to a Black man and am a mother to Black boys, does not mean I understand the experiences of Black mothers. So I encourage you to read my story alongside the voices of Black mothers, who have far more powerful and grounded things to say.
While long overdue, the country is finally forced to deal with its painful reality: racism. Racism is real, it’s complex, and it demands our collective attention…by showing up! As Scott Woods wrote, “The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on behalf of whites at other people’s expenses, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease.”
As moms, we need to be deliberate in shaping an ANTI-racist generation. Here are a few of the heavy responsibilities at the forefront of this mama’s mind:
To educate ourselves, ourselves
Almost everything is “figureoutable”, so start with the resources below and keep digging. Learning is a life-long and deliberate process. A harmful thing that we can do on this antiracism journey is expect that the responsibility of educating white folks rests on Black people.
- If you’ve never taken Harvard’s Implicit Association Test, I encourage you to do so.
- I also encourage you to learn about the differences between individual racism and institutional racism, if you’re not already familiar.
- If you haven’t read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” I recommend you read that as well.
- Currently, I’m reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi, Coates.
To not ignore, but capitalize
The topic of race, racism, and police brutality is everywhere. On social media, the news, and (at least for us) at our dinner table. So if perhaps you didn’t know how to talk about racism with your kids before, there is literally no time like the present.
Last weekend I took my 5-year-old son to a caravan protest, where he was rolling down the streets of DC, fist in the air, chanting “Black Lives Matter.” This experience will be with him forever. There are opportunities to show our kids what real action, activism, and allyship look like. Let’s use them!
To meet our kids where they are
- Do your kids like hip hop or rap music? Have them learn the roots of this genre, and (if you can get over the cursing) listen to old school 90s hip hop and talk about how the issues then look much like the issues we still have today.
- Do you have a Netflix account? Have them watch the documentary “13th” or another age-appropriate movie to spark discussion.
- Are you kids sports buffs? Check out this article about why Colin Kaepernick took a knee – chances are, you haven’t heard the whole story. Or show them the images of the 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute and talk about what they were protesting and what happened to their careers afterwards.
- Find any and all ways to open the discussion. For my 3 and 5-year-olds, our school is helping us celebrate a Freedom Summer. Each day we are focusing on an important Black leader or Black movement, learning about how we are similar and different to them and sharing what we learn (side note: my kids love knowing that Barack Obama loved spiderman comic books as a kid).
To admit when we and our kids get it wrong
We are all going to get it wrong sometimes (shoot, I’m second-guessing everything I write here, worrying that I’m getting it wrong). So when we do, admit it, don’t get defensive, embrace that it’s uncomfortable, and get it right next time. If we do this, we give space for our kids to do this too. This has been a topic of many dinner conversations for us.
And to show up, to an uncomfortable degree
We need to take action, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Last weekend my dad took my 14-year-old nephew (also racially Brown, politically Black) to his first protest in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I know my White dad, born and raised in one of the least diverse areas of the country, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, does not feel 100% comfortable at a Black Lives Matter protest, but he showed up for his grandson because it’s important. And because his conformability isn’t what matters right now.
It’s the same for many of us who have confronted our friends and family when we’ve seen or heard something racist. It’s not easy to call people out. But it’s also not the time to remain silent. Once we do it, and we realize that having an uncomfortable feeling is no match for a knee in the neck, we’ve shown up. Only then will we be ready to help our kids show up when they see a friend or classmate say or do something racist.
We are the model for our children’s behavior
As moms, and as humans, we cannot let the weight of the situation paralyze us. Rather, we need to derive energy from this weight and let it be a spark. Finally, if Mandy and Rachel have taught us anything, remember to seek grace when the weight of it gets to be too much… Pause. Breathe (because you can). Then show up again and let your voice be heard.