5 ways to teach your kids about race without making them feel hopeless.

As a black woman, I wonder what it would be like to raise a black child in today's world.

I turn on the news or open my Facebook feed and see celebrities like Vybz Kartel and Azealia Banks defending skin bleaching. Black bodies are strewn across the media, seemingly victims of fear-fueled violence by police and the nation’s growing intolerance. Not to mention a presidential election that has unveiled some of the darkest perspectives and ideologies in this country.

Things look bleak, and far too often it feels like we’re moving backward, intent on repeating the mistakes of the past. Seeing these things hurts. So much of it feels like a personal attack because the people affected are just like me. My family. My friends.


Image via the Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr.

Now, I’m not a parent. Far from it. But I wonder what it would be like to raise a kid in these times when racism and hate are increasingly mainstream. How do parents today protect their kids from the vitriol online, lack of representation in entertainment media, and the countless microaggressions in day-to-day life?

How do parents, particularly black parents, raise kids who are able to see and understand the ways in which race plays a role in their lives without them feeling burdened by this knowledge or internalizing messages of hate?

The answer, while multifaceted, is surprisingly simple.

I spoke with Dr. James Huguley, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work and Center on Race and Social Problems. A portion of his work includes the African American Parenting Project, which looks at these very issues and works to identify the ways kids are affected by parents who stress cultural pride and awareness.

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He speaks with black families about their parenting methods and goals and asks them to share how they encourage and reinforce positive identity in their homes. Then, he analyzes the results of these efforts.

Here are the five key pieces of advice he shared:

1. Strike a delicate balance between educating your kids and burdening them.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that parents are people, too. They’re using their history to inform what they teach their kids, but they have to be cautious to approach it from a balanced perspective. Dr. Huguley said:

“We see a range of ways in which the parents’ experiences have influenced how they interact with their children. For some who have experienced racial oppression firsthand — the parents from the South with really devastating racial stories and narratives — they want to protect their children, they want to make sure their children both see themselves positively and surround themselves with positivity, and that they're strong in the face of oppression or racism and don’t feel defined by it.”

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Balance is key. Huguley said parents should aim to empower their kids, not scare them: “You want them to feel strong. Feel capable." But encouraging their sense of self-worth doesn't mean sheltering them from some of the harsh realities of the world. Huguley continues: "They can have a sober understanding of oppression, but at the same time not feel discouraged or that they won’t be able to achieve. They can know that there are challenges that we face but that they can and will still be very successful.”

2. Don’t just talk about cultural pride; display it at home.

How do parents teach kids about their culture's history (and its relationship to their present) without overwhelming them? With art. With experiences outside the mainstream that positively depict their culture. Exposing kids to cultural experiences serves as a form of positive reinforcement. While turning on the TV may yield a handful of largely one-dimensional depictions of what it means to be black, there are art exhibits, plays, books, and so much more that show kids that there’s no one way to be black; they just need to be themselves.

Image via iStock.

3. There’s no better antidote to the ways society fails children of color than community.

As Huguley put it, “the family is your first community.” What parents do within the home goes a long way and lays the foundation for how their children interact with the world, but there’s no better way to cement that message than to show kids firsthand that they are part of an incredibly diverse community of people. That community will vary for every family. For some, it’ll be a circle of friends or family. For others, a spiritual community. For others still, an activity may be what brings them together. Whatever the means, being a part of a community is key to a child’s sense of self.


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Huguley said that when kids, particularly African-American kids, are raised within supportive communities and see representations that are “well beyond negative racial stereotypes, they can begin to understand more holistically, more intellectually and artistically, even relationally what it means to be a black person.” They'll see that being black is so much more than sound bites or caricatures — black people are allowed to be whole, too.

4. There is strength in our history.

Yes, slavery happened. Yes, there are so many systemic inequalities lingering as a result. Yes, it can feel like there will always be an uphill battle to fight. But framing plays a role in how kids view the past. The horrors of the past are not indicators of inferiority or weakness or a source of shame. It’s a sign of strength. Huguley said: “Our history is a history of overcoming. Parents have framed it that way. We have a long history of overcoming oppression, and it’s going to continue to be that way. We’re strong people.”

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So when kids turn on the TV and hear about another police shooting or see that KKK members are seeking political office, they don’t need to feel discouraged. This is just one part in the continued battle, and we will overcome.

5. Keep it age-appropriate.

Huguley reminds us that not every child is ready to process the reality of racial inequality. He encourages parents to have conversations with their kids, and to keep that conversation flowing. It’s not enough to have a single talk — it’s an ongoing discussion. The goal isn’t to scare kids, it’s to educate them and show them that they are more than a stereotype. More than a statistic. They are worthy.

Image via iStock.

This world is far from perfect, and though we’ve made huge strides forward, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Our differences should be celebrated — not attacked, denigrated, or used as an excuse for violent and abusive behavior.

The road looks bumpy right now. Too many people are trying to pass off hateful and racist views as valid opinions. But this nastiness that we're seeing is part of a greater evolution, even if it feels like a downward spiral right now. We have to peel back the layers and confront the divisiveness before we can truly move forward.

The seeds of a revolution are sown — black parents today are saying enough is enough. They're equipping their kids to rise above the hate, showing them that they are so much more than the two-dimensional characters so much of society tries to convince them they are.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

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The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

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Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

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"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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