Parents are, to put our job simply, tasked with teaching our children all of life’s necessary lessons. From helping them respect the power of gravity (please stop jumping off the couch) to engaging in sex-positive sex education, as parents we are our children’s primary, built-in educators. I mean, you read the headline so you know where we’re going: this role as parents includes teaching our kids about race and racism and exploring what racially conscious parenting really means.
Racially conscious parenting, when done right, is an on-going effort that isn’t just about having one conversation with your kids, but rather about integrating this awareness into your parenting strategy for basically your kids’ entire lives. And for white or white-passing parents, this must include talking to your kids about leveraging the benefit of their whiteness to help end systemic racism and white supremacy.
This sounds like… a lot. And it is. But it’s also not more daunting than any other part of parenting once we work through our own discomfort with these topics and the reality of our existence, our historical complicity, and our responsibility as white people in an egregiously unequal world, in a country that is actively unsafe to millions of people in a way we’ll never experience. Yeah, it’s a lot! And there’s also no choice but to do our work to make it better — and as moms, a lot of that work involves how we parent our kids.
Black parents and other parents of color do not have the ability to choose whether or not to teach their children about race and racism. They live it every single day. Conversations about race are part of teaching Black kids basic rules for safely navigating daily life, like looking both ways before crossing the street. Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he was shot and killed by Cleveland, Ohio police officers in 2014. Emmett Till was just 14, when he was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for “offending a white woman” in a grocery store. For Black parents, these conversations can mean the difference between life and death. And because white parents are failing to address, discuss, and properly educate their children on racism in this country, Black parents are tasked with teaching their children how to navigate white spaces so they can come home safe after visiting a grandparent, playing in the park, going to church, buying a bag of skittles, going for a jog, or driving a car.
All of which is to say, for white parents, exploring racially conscious parenting and raising kids who are equipped to work toward a safer and more just world shouldn’t feel optional for us either.
So where do we start when it comes to teaching our kids about race? First, with educating ourselves.
Raising Race Conscious Children, an online organization and blog dedicated to supporting “parents and teachers who are trying to talk about race and diversity with young children” via model conversations and workshops, is a great resource for any parent looking to educate their children (and themselves) on issues of race, racism, discrimination, and inequality. The onus is on non-Black people to educate their kids on race and racism, not on Black people to facilitate that education for the rest of us.
But if you want to follow Black educators who can help you learn about racially conscious parenting, HeyMama suggests the following teachers who can help. These educators, parents, advocates, and thought leaders are not responsible for teaching our children, but are consistently providing resources, perspectives, and information white and other non-Black parents can use to do the necessary work themselves.
Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle-based writer, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. She wrote the book So You Want To Talk About Race in 2018, described as a “hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America.” A mother of two, Oluo has consistently asked white parents to step up to the plate and discuss race with their children. Her 2018 Q&A with Parent Map, titled, “What Seattle Parents Need To Know About Racism,” is as informative as it is personal. You can follow Oluo on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Renee Bracey Sherman
Fifty-nine percent of people who have abortions are parents, and the abortion rate for Black women is almost five times that of white women, meaning Black people who can get pregnant are disproportionately impacted by anti-abortion laws. Renee Bracey Sherman, founder of We Testify, an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions, is a writer and reproductive justice advocate working to center Black people and people of color in abortion stories, and further educate people on the intersectionality of race, abortion access, and reproductive justice. Teaching our children that all people, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status have the right to not only decide when and if to have children, but with whom and how, is a vital aspect of racial conscious parenting and ensuring a more just future for Black and brown people. You can follow Sherman on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Maya Wiley is an NBC News and MSNBC news legal analyst and professor at The New School, a New York City university for scholarly activists and artists. Wiley previously worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Open Society Institute. As a renowned expert on racial justice and equality, Wiley is a source of information on racial issues across the country, including police brutality, structural racism in the United States and abroad, and social justice. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Dr. Nardos King
Dr. Nardos King is an education advocate, superintendent, and a board officer and president elect of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Dr. King consistently shares online resources for teaching tolerance, engaging in important conversations with students, and meaningful allyship. You can follow Dr. King on Twitter.
Dr. Kimberly Parker
Dr. Kimberly Parker is a former high school English teacher and current teacher developer. Per her website, Dr. Parker is “deeply committed to the success of young people of color, particularly those under-represented and misunderstood by all of those who refuse to truly know how brilliant and of promise these young folks are.” Dr. Parker has been featured on a number of podcasts, including The World’s “Why It’s So Hard To Talk About Racism That Happens in School,” Heinemann Podcast’s “Dismantling Racism in Education: A Preview of Social Justice Saturday,” and Teaching While White’s “White Fragility: Part Two.” You can follow Dr. Parker on Twitter.
Jazmyne Futrell is a 32-year-old mother of four, social influencer, and blogger behind Mixed Mom Brown Babies. By sharing her personal experiences as they relate to pregnancy, motherhood, and marriage, Futrell lends her voice to an often whitewashed understanding of parenting, pregnancy, and interpersonal relationships, creating a more inclusive and diverse understanding of what racially conscious parenting means in 2020 and beyond. You can follow her on Instagram.
Charnaie Gordon is a mom of two, computer programmer, and the blogger behind Here Wee Read, an online blog focused on connecting parents with diverse and inclusive books and kid-friendly products. A contributor at Brightly, Gordon’s social media presence lends itself to inclusive education, racial consciousness, and age-appropriate, informative resources for all parents to better educate their children, and themselves, in a fun, interactive way. You can follow Gordon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a reporter for The New York Times Magazine covering racial injustice, and a recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for the ground-breaking The 1619 Project. Published on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the United States, The 1619 Project, “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contrigutions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” per The New York Times Magazine. You can follow Hannah-Jones on Twitter.
Jesi Taylor Cruz
Jesi Taylor Cruz is a doula, philosophy graduate student, and writer focused primarily on genodice studies, parenting and maternal mental health, especially as they relate and intersect with race and gender identity, reproductive and environmental justice, critical race theory, and other issues related to identity. You can find Cruz’s work on Medium, VICE, Romper, and SELF Magazine. You can follow them on Twitter.
Birttney Cooper is an associate professor, feminist, and author of Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, Eloquent Rage, and the co-editor of “The Crunk Feminist Collection.” A regular contributor to TIME Magazine, (including her latest on why Black women are an after-thought when it comes to police brutality, which is a must-read), Cooper is a thought-leader on the intersection of race and feminism. You can follow Cooper on Twitter.
Feminista Jones is an author, activist, and advocate. The author of four books — including Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World From the Tweets to the Streets — you can find her work frequently on Medium’s ZORA Mag and the Black Girl Missing Podcast, dedicated to telling the stories of Black girls, ages 0-17, who have gone missing in the United States. You can follow Jones on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.