Why is it important for black parents to talk about racism?

This is why the “race talk” is essential.(SDI Productions/Getty Images)
This is why the “race talk” is essential.(SDI Productions/Getty Images)

According to leading anti-hate organisation - ADL, Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another. In the South African context racism was propelled by Apartheid, which influenced the perception of Africans as the dark, backward, uneducated, uncultured race.

Apartheid ended in 1994, with the dawn of the new South Africa and the promise of a rainbow nation.

In 2016 the story of a high school in Pretoria that enforced western hairstyles on African children induced a wave of rage from parents all over South Africa.

Parents from other races wondered why Africans were being dramatic about hair, but this serves as an example of policies that were created without considering Africans. 

Poorly represented in the media

Often parents are afraid to have the 'race talk' with their children as they feel it might draw their attention to racial differences. However, research shows that children recognise race from a very young age, as young as 6 months.

It is suggested that the best time to start to have discussions around racism is the same time parents begin to teach their children about different colours (around age 3 year).

The reality is that previously racially disadvantaged families are poorly represented in the media in general.

From the superheroes that are introduced in the media to our children, to the lack of diversity in dolls they are exposed to in stores, and more.

How then do we convince our children that they are beautiful and equally valuable in a society that tells them otherwise?

How do we explain to them why mommy is still burdened with Black Tax and why daddy is getting paid less than his white counterpart?

We make individual decisions as parents to change the paradigm in our families, and bringing about an end to racism in South Africa could start with the 'race talk'.

This is why the 'race talk' is important:

  • It helps children better understand diversity and become more comfortable when interacting with children from different racial and ethnic groups.
  • If you don’t have the race talk with your children and instil the right values about racial equality, someone else will, and it might not always be the beliefs or values you’d like your children to grow up with.
  • Talking about race with your children eliminates harmful stereotypes permeating their beliefs. The media might show a different picture but parents can paint one that doesn’t associate blackness with crime or poverty or all things negative, and rather one of racial equality and the importance of diversity.
  • When you have the race talk, children can recognise and respond more appropriately to racism and discrimination.
  • Not having the racial talk with your child robs them of knowing our rich history and understanding how far we’ve come as a people and as a nation.

A few weeks ago I was at a supermarket and I overheard a white toddler ask her mother why a passing black toddler had her hair in locks, I could see the mother was slightly shook by the question however I was very impressed with her answer.

She effortlessly said, "That’s a beautiful hairstyle. Doesn’t she look pretty?"

What are your thoughts on the topic? Did you have the race talk with your child? What did you say and what was the response? Share your story with us

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