“By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures…Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Recent events have brought the topic of racism and injustice to the forefront of everyone’s mind. If you want to be part of a peaceful solution, a powerful place for every parent to start is by having age-appropriate conversations with your children about racism.
Start with Scripture.
In the book of Galatians, Paul is angry. He’s visibly and verbally upset with the people of Galatia and even Peter that they are putting Jewish traditions above the work of Christ in importance. That leads him to his famous line that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Studying the Bible together as a family after meals or before bed and having regular conversations, inspired by God’s word, is the best and perhaps the easiest way to show your children the importance of Christ’s love for those “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).
Don’t wait for your child to bring it up.
One of the earliest songs children learn includes the lyrics “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,” but this song is not nearly enough for teaching our children about race issues. The conversations about race that are important to have with our children can be simple. For example, ask questions like “Have you noticed how some people look different than you? Some people in this world are treated badly just because of the color of their skin. That’s called racism.” Ask your child if they’ve ever witnessed racism and have them imagine how they might feel if someone treated them badly because of their skin color.
Watch for statements that link race with value judgments.
Children start noticing race very early, but parents sometimes panic and shush or shut down comments or questions about race because they’re afraid of their child saying something offensive. Noticing skin color is a natural part of growing up.
On the other hand, if you start noticing your child linking observations about race with negative value judgments, this is the time for gentle intervention. Rather than responding with something like “We don’t say that,” ask your child why that thought or idea was said to help your child see people of other races as fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image.
Help your kids recognize the harm of a racist idea.
God not only hates physical acts of discrimination, but he hates the root of them, which includes hatred and anger. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward them. What we say matters.
For older children, you can discuss clearer historical examples of prejudice and racism, including the Holocaust, Apartheid in South Africa, or the civil rights movement in the United States.
Don’t worry about having or looking like you have all the answers.
Especially if you are not a person of color, you will never be an expert on the experience of racism in America. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to be a positive force for change. Loving people no matter their skin color takes Christ-like humility. Always be listening and learning.