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Why more white parents should be talking with their kids about racism

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Head on photo of older man demonstrating with crowd of white people on city sidewalk. He is dressed in cold weather cap, jacket and gloves holding a handmade sign of white cardboard with black lettering that reads "hashtag End White Silence."
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"A headache is nothing compared to really thinking about the long-term impact of racial injustice on the lives of kids of color in this country," Dr. Jennifer Harvey on parents who avoid conversations about race with their kids.

White families have a tendency to avoid tough racial conversations by teaching colorblindness or by failing to intervene when witnessing racist behavior—habits that reinforce racism in American culture.

Children recognize and experience race at a young age and family is often the starting place where they learn racism or the tools to combat it.

The dinner table, a common place where racism is heard, is an opportunity to “practice breaking silence,” said Professor Jennifer Harvey, of Drake University. “My kids need to see me be willing to challenge racism.”

Parents should be approachable, engaging, willing to learn and model the behavior they want to instill in their children.

Many parents teach white silence or colorblindness because they weren’t equipped with the language to educate on racial injustice. However, not having the necessary conversation is not the solution, Harvey said.

Where white families might be able to avoid the topic, minority families cannot.

Harvey emphasized, “These are not issues they get to shrug off, their lives are at stake.”

According to Prof. Harvey, more white people have engaged in race conversations in 2020, and she hopes to see them continue to stand in partnership with minority leaders pushing for racial justice.

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz