We wish we could release a blog post that is lighthearted as our usual kind of post is, but that would not be an appropriate response to what is happening in the United States. Our students are watching us, and we need to be vocal yet gentle with this kind of subject matter because we are in mourning as a nation.
We wish we could say that this is not something that frequently happens, but it is.
We wish we could tell all of our students that this will never happen again, that we could protect them from all the hate in the world, but history has taught us differently.
There are times when people are just plain awful to others, and people treat other people badly for no reason, and children are often left wondering: why? To be frank, we (educators and parents) should be asking ourselves why and how can we do something. Sitting by without action is not helpful. Children see a lack of action as making something okay that is not okay and we do not want to make it seem like what happened to George Floyd was okay. Not a single family can idly sit by and not say his name without grief:
His name has joined a list of people who were (are) treated unfairly for no good reason at all by a system that is supposed to protect everyone equally, but it doesn’t.
We cannot hope to teach children about how we need to be “fair” in the classroom, in school, or the home without speaking about George Floyd. We cannot hope to end this kind of treatment of African Americans (and Native Americans, and Latino Americans, and Refugees, and countless others who are constantly fighting this battle) without calling it what it is: racism. It is a hateful, hateful, no good thing – and we need our children (and students) to know that we truly do believe that we need to treat others the way we want to be treated: with love and respect.
Make it simple for your kiddos to understand: Black. Lives. Matter.
It is left to parents, guardians, and educators to teach children that hate is not acceptable in any circumstance. Hate is destructive and tears down lives. Societies throughout history have lauded fairness, selflessness, courage – and we need for the next generation to understand that equality lines up with these tenants. No matter the skin color.
Every child needs to know what racism is and they need to know that it can be subtle or it can be very clear. If you would like tips on how to teach them that inequality is unacceptable then we suggest keeping these three things in mind:
1) The younger the child, the more sensitive they are to this information and they can easily become very scared. Please be tender with younger children when talking about racism. If you are a parent or educator, you know your children best. Use an example with something simplistic but expressive: perhaps unequal passing out of dessert after dinner, or candy with peers. Use an unfair mock grading scale to point out that inequality is actually very pointless and stupid and harms people in their hearts. It can even harm people in their very own homes (Breonna Taylor).
2) Use this time to teach children that courage can be scary, but it is necessary. Stand up to bullies, no matter how big they seem to be.
3) Remember George Floyd’s name.