To begin, I would like to honour this movement and make note of the irony of a white clinician writing about the Black Lives Matter movement for the purpose of education — a privilege that I foster for simply being white. To provide a broad context, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement began in 2013. It is about people coming together to promote fairness, justice and reject racism. Racism refers to words or actions that are used to discriminate or disadvantage people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. In the U.S., not only are black men 5x more likely to be imprisoned than their white male counterparts, but there are also disparities between black and white people when comparing health, education and employment. To this day, many black children are educated on how they can and cannot behave in school, work settings, or within the public. For example, some children are asked by their parents not to wear their hoods if they are cold because they might appear more threatening to others. These are conversations that many black children grow up experiencing. This is their reality.
It is important to understand that many people around the world are talking about this issue out of necessity as their lives continue to be threatened as a result of the colour of their skin. Some people may ask why issues arising in the U.S. have now spread across the globe with the illustrations of ongoing protests. This is because these racist experiences are shared amongst black people all over the world, and these issues have only been heightened by the deaths of several black individuals by the hands of police in the U.S.
Having conversations about treating all people equally can be a highly sensitive topic and necessary in order to move forward on this journey towards fair treatment for all. In order to make change, it is important that we, as adults, do not shy away or avoid these difficult conversations. Even young kids are aware of racial differences, and therefore, it is ever so important to begin these conversations while they are young and we can offer them a safe and open environment. When broaching conversations around race and racism with our kids, try to validate their feelings. It might be helpful to start with a check in around what they are feeling after hearing about the BLM movement in the news. All kids may experience the news differently and therefore it is important not to make assumptions around what they might be feeling. For young children, it might be helpful to draw, paint or act out their feelings with toys if it is difficult for them to express themselves verbally.
There are a number of helpful resources that I will share through links below when talking with our loved ones about the BLM movement. Some of the primary considerations that might be helpful would be a brief overview of why this issue is important from its historical roots. This could include conversations around colonization and slavery. In this regard, it is important to be clear, direct, and factual. If you do not know the answers to some of their questions or particular details on this matter, that is okay. This provides a great opportunity to model for your children that it is okay not to have all the answers! This can also help you learn and grow collectively.
The primary message being portrayed within the BLM movement is that racism needs to stop. People are people and deserve to be treated equally!
Despite the difficult history, there remains hope for demonstrating human dignity and respect for all. Spreading awareness, attending peaceful protests, and signing petitions to create fair legal systems are all steps in the direction of equality. Everyone has a voice — including young people! When society works together, change can be created. Children are our future. We have the capacity to build a kinder world for the future.
1) Tips for talking to your children about race and racism
2) Books to help talk about race and racism
3) Why Black Lives Matter has gained momentum
4) Netflix Documentary discussing the importance of and historical context around the BLM movement, entitled: 13th
If you find yourself struggling to talk with your children or you have difficulties exploring this issue for yourself, please feel free to book an appointment with me and we can discuss this in more detail!
Victoria Walker, B.S.W., M.S.W., R.S.W.
Registered Social Worker