Race and Racism
Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Mt 22:39). Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Talking with our child about racism can be difficult for any parent, but it is important to have some conversations about it in a way that is age appropriate and affirms the dignity of every person.
Like many other important topics, talking to your child about racism is not something we as parents can do just one time. If your child is young and you haven’t had conversations about it before, you can begin to talk about in small, bite-sized conversations. Start by helping your child understand that many people look different from each other in different ways, and how each of us is made in the likeness and image of God. When talking about race, it’s important to help your child understand that our differences in appearance and culture make each of us unique creations of God to be celebrated. Using platitudes like “we don’t see color” are unhelpful and can devalue the importance of diversity and how it is a gift to be treasured by each of us. If your child notices someone who looks different from themselves, use that time to talk about what they notice, and allow them to ask questions. Try to avoid making them feel ashamed or embarrassed for asking questions, while gently helping them understand the right time and place to have those conversations.
If your child has personally experienced racism:
You may be feeling very protective, angry, or vengeful as a result of what your child experienced. It’s important to stay calm and listen. Recognize that your own feelings may be influencing the way you want your child to respond to the situation. Take time to process your own emotions before talking with your child. Begin by asking your child to share what happened in their own words. Try not to interrupt them or speculate. It’s important to avoid making any kind of insults or verbal attacks on the person who acted in this way against your child. It may be tempting to call this person names or insult them, but try to set a positive example by avoiding personal counter attacks. Talk with your child and work together to make a plan on how to address the situation. Most importantly, continue to let your child know that you are working with them to bring justice to the situation, and to help them feel safe.
If your child has said or done something racist:
You may be shocked or feeling disappointed in hearing what your child said or did. It’s important to take time to process your own emotions before talking with your child about the situation. Begin by asking your child to share what happened in their own words. It’s important to stay calm. Try not to interrupt them or speculate. Ask your child if they understand why what they said or did is wrong. Educate them on your concerns with what happened; Help them understand how their behavior fails to uphold the dignity of the other person. Remind your child that every person is made in the likeness and image of God. We are called to love and respect all people for this reason. Work with your child to come up with a plan to address the situation.
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