We all have a vision of a world where people will be equals because any other world is less than what should be. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Its first article says: « All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
You don’t have time right now? Download the PDF of this blog post and read it later!
This was 70 years ago but there is still a lot of progress to make to get there. Europeans and people of European descent are the most beneficiaries of a world shaped by themselves.
Nowadays, racism and discrimination is a reality
In the US, the net worth of a typical white family is ten times greater than that of a black family. Laws exist to prevent many black people to vote and be a part of their democracy. There are twice more black than white people who live in poverty and almost twice more black than white people who lack health care.
These are facts from the United States, but there is strong black discrimination in South Africa, where black people still earn about three times less than white people and suffer huge disparities in every field of life. In Europe, black people suffer race-related violence, discrimination when looking for a job or a house, and police profiling.
We all know these facts, and yet, we don’t give it many thoughts. Why is that? How come such an important matter has such a small place in the education we give to our children?
Let’s take the opportunity offered by all black people around the world at the moment, as they raise their voices, to face a reality we usually avoid. This is a chance for us to make things better.
And as often, the best solution is found in education!
Today, I offer to reduce the gap between the current situation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for which we all stand for.
Three helpful things that you can start to study straight away with your children to raise their awareness and yours, and to give them a chance to be better than us.
1. You are not born a racist, you become one
Children may not be born free and equal yet, but what they have in common is being born totally unprejudiced.
So how come most white adults don’t find it a problem that they earn more money than black people, that they have better jobs, live in better areas, have better health care, have better chances of education and have more political representatives?
The white supremacy is something everyone is taught since he was a very young child. Growing up in our culture gives us ideas and beliefs. This is mostly unconscious, and yet, when you stop to think about it, you find it everywhere.
For example, the environment your children grow in: their school, their extra-curricular activities, their neighborhood, summer camps, religious organizations,…
A study showed that children who grew up in almost entirely white neighborhoods had very little understanding of what is racism and how it can affect people’s lives. Actually, there is this idea that the more a neighborhood or a school is white, the better it is. This creates unconscious beliefs in our children that white is better.
So, speaking about racism with your child is not enough. We live in multicultural societies and this should reflect in your children’s education and lives. Through activities, books, movies, influential persons you talk about, sport,… A multicultural childhood is so much richer than a one culture childhood. Offer to your children opportunities to get to know each other, to make friends, to erase useless barriers.
Don’t let your child think that, just because you can afford a white private school, he is better than others.
Watch this video if you’d like an illustration of what white privilege means with this group exercise with teenagers.
As a parent, you perpetuate discrimination and inequalities when you agree with a system that privileges whites over blacks. And by doing so, you teach your children to think the same, that somehow, they are worth more and they deserve more.
Look at your life, and see how, without realizing it, you teach racism to your children:
- What books do you have at home?
- What movies do you watch?
- Who do you invite over for dinner?
- Who are your friends?
- How do you talk about headlines?
- How do you talk about criminality in association with black people?
- What areas of your town do you avoid and what do you say about it?
- What magazines do you have around?
- What blogs do you read?
Now, you can answer this question: are you somehow encouraging racism and white supremacy in your child’s education?
You might not have realized it, I know I never wondered if I had books featuring black children before. But you can change it.
Your children already have so many white supremacy influences outside the house: at school, you don’t know what teachers say, in history classes they study white-centered history, in music they study white musicians, on tv they see white journalists, white politicians, white announcers,…
What about black artists, historians, musicians, writers, storytellers, heroes, comics?
Bring more multicultural life in your home, don’t just speak about it, here is the difference. When it comes to racism, your actions speak much more than your words.
We are the heir of a racial imagination, and we can only change with conscious efforts, the first ones being to admit there is white supremacy in our world, the second by bringing more multiculturalism in our lives.
« Change how you understand what it means to be racist, and then act on that understanding. Because if you change your understanding, but you don’t do anything different, then you’re colluding ». Robin DiAngelo
2. White men invented racism
When the Spanish sailed around the world to discover new lands and new maritime roads in the 15th century, they found many new lands. As they brought back to Europe animals and humans from Africa and America, the Europeans started to use the concept of « races ».
Image source: Wikipedia
And racism was born. For at the moment you create races, you start to outline the differences rather than the common threads.
In Europeans views, since they had moved from a more natural life with basic tools to « advanced » societies, cities and religion, they were superiors to those other humans that they look at as savages.
They associated a simpler culture and way of living with a simpler mind. Backed up by anthropology and so-called researches, those ideas of white superiority have traveled a long way. Such an example of those scientific proof is the work of Samuel Morton, from Philadelphia.
His classification of humans in five races, with of course the white on top of the list, was used in the South by those who wanted slavery to last.
Morton, like Broca in France, based his theory on the belief that since the brain is where the ideas come from, then we can say who’s smarter by the size of the skull!
Image source: Penn museum
Linné in France (1778) did classify humans into races too (whites, reds, blacks, yellows and monsters for those with deformities). All the way to the Second World War we can find theories about Aryan blood and the superiority of the white race through Europe.
Even though we now know that races don’t exist in terms of science, that African, European, Asian don’t have different DNA, that we are all but one race, the human race, this idea of classification still impacts our world. Just see how much racism, and even institutional racism exists today, even though it has no foundations but a dark and unforgivable history.
Genetic research, in the past decades, did show two things:
- We all share the same DNA with tiny differences between people
- We are all Africans
Why did European and then their descendant in the United States, in Australia, in Canada, in South America create that concept of race?
The idea of race was born in some scientist’s studies and was born from the meeting of Darwin’s theories of evolution and the philosophies of Light that spoke about the path of societies toward progress. These two concepts based their ideas on a hierarchy and therefore, when scientists discovered new cultures, they were eager to « classify » them in a hierarchic way.
How a couple of scientific studies could create centuries of racism, inequalities, discrimination, allow slavery and colonialism, mass murder and endless pain for the black people?
As I said, in the 15th Century, European went on to discover the world, and as they did, they encountered new cultures. How convenient it was, then, to use those « scientific » proofs to legitimate the theft of land, wealth, and people.
First, as they arrived in a new land, South America, North America, Canada, Australia, they used their « supremacy » as an excuse to steal the lands of the native people. Races and religion making a terrible team here to justify the theft of the wealth.
As they became masters of new territories, white conquerors realized that they would need workers to tend all these new lands. So they used the theory of races again to justify slavery and forced labor.
So white men not only invented racism, they used it to build the wealth and power they still own today.
3. Racism is stronger inside groups
When being part of a group, even a person who wouldn’t be a racist on her own can become one.
You might have heard of the experience Jane Eliott did in her classroom back in 1968, where she created two groups of kids, blue eyes and brown eyes. In no time, because they felt they belonged to a group, kids started to behave differently towards their friends.
You can watch the experiment here.
This is a very important lesson to share with our children, for them to understand and feel the power of the group, and to know it is ok not to be part of it.
There are two reasons fro which people agree with a group or become part of a group (even if this group might say or do things against their values): normalization and conformism.
We speak about normalization is when something that was particular becomes normal. And we accept it. It is something that builds on little by little, and we accept it little by little. Why? Because we love normal, it is comfortable and reassuring. As when, after something special happens, we look forward to a back-to-normal.
Movies, tv shows, mainstream media, ads, they all influence our sense of normal. This is how Hitler got so many German people to think that arresting Jewish people, stealing their goods, and eventually murdering them was normal. So strong, so powerful, so omnipotent was his message, that it got into people who would have never accepted such a thing!
A simple example was shown through an experiment: women who watched romantic comedies featuring obsessive romantic behavior became more likely to accept stalking behaviors than women who watched documentaries.
How easily influenced is the human mind! Think about it with your parents-who-don’t-want-to-raise-racists-kids-lense: check tv, ads, newspapers, news, school books, magazines and check what is the message of normal in them?
What norm is offered to you by all the media that surround you? Who is shown as rich? powerful? able? smart? successful? desirable? cultivated? trustworthy? Any black people there?
Conformism happens when there is a norm, a standard already, and that this norm is accepted by a majority. As an individual, you might accept it for a couple of reasons:
- Out of complacently. If so, then personal values are untouched and the person accepts the norm to avoid problems, not to stand out.
- For identification. We like a group and we want to be part of it, we don’t want to be rejected, so we accept its norms.
- By internalization. In this case, the message is so deeply imprinted in the person that she doesn’t even feel she’s conforming, she thinks it’s her choice. This happens when the majority has high credibility (government, leader,…)
One way or another, just by existing, the majority influences us into wanting to be a part of it. Different experiments did prove that fact and it is always amazing to see how people are ready to go against their own intuition, knowledge, values, just to conform to the majority.
As a person, conscious now of those facts, you can choose to reject the norm, and you can also offer an alternative.
Here is a nice and powerful exercise to do with your children after speaking of the 3 subjects presented here:
- You are not born racist, you become one
- White men invented racism
- Racism is stronger inside groups
Ask your child what « normal » he would offer as an alternative. What normal does he want for his country, for his friends, for himself? And share his message, for there is always hope in children’s words.
Photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com
I presented with you today three things I think we don’t share with children about racism. And I wanted to share it with you parents also, for you might not realize how our society, our medias, our acts, even our unconscious is tainted with racism.
Download Our Cheat Sheet and get access to content ideas for multicultural media!
Racism isn’t only in numbers, in the percentage of black people being poorer, unemployed, receiving less health care, or less quality education. Those are the effects, the results of racism. But the roots of racism are in our beliefs, our education, our projection of the world.
We see everywhere that white people are better and more worthy, that they deserve what they have. And it suits us of course, because our kids then have the best teachers and schools, the best doctors, the best chances in life.
This can only change, in my opinion, if we learn the see the richness of every culture, if we bring more positive images of black people in our children’s life, if we let them create for themselves a new normal, where black people can be more than hip-hop singers, sport champions or activists, but can also be heroes, poets, film makers, teachers, violinist, ambassadors, ads models, parents and families just like you.
It is our responsibility to raise our children so they will outsmart us, to give them the tools to shape a better world and to develop their critical minds so they can always think for themselves.
Get access to our cheat sheet and PDF blog posts right here!
Thanks for reading this article. As always, I hope it gave you some line of thoughts to explore as well as ideas to ac
t and create a positive change in your life. Don’t let the inspiration fades and take action right away:
save the article in your favorites
decide on the one action you will implement today and write it in your notebook
Share this article with 3 friends who could benefit from it
I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment and
don’t judge yourself harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
See you next week for our next article!
Featured image: Chayene Rafaela, Unsplash