“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— Neil Postman
As protests advocating an end to racism and police brutality are increasing in the United States, children who are absorbing the emotional reactions of adults around them are unclear on how to respond. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was arrested and killed in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. On June 2, Nickelodeon, a children’s network went dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time the Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck before he suffocated to death. The screen displayed the words, “I can’t breathe” along with a heavy breathing sound. This small but critical moment depicts the importance of having a conversation with children. Although it drew resistance from some parents, it has aroused many questions in the minds of children, which are much needed today.
Tracy Robinson-Wood and Laurie Kramer, professors of Applied Psychology at Northeastern University, talk about the importance of dialogue with children to put an end to systemic racism. According to Robinson-Wood, families should talk to their white children early and frequently. They should be taught how to use their privilege to dismantle systems that suppress Black people instead of reinforcing them. Kramer says, there is no need to hide racism or violence from the children. We should share these instances with the children to the extent it is appropriate for the child’s age. Moreover, we should give them time to think about it and ensure that they take it in the right way.
Positive discussions about racism, injustice, and anti-Black violence are important for children. Talking about protests that have led to change in the past will help them better understand and react with less fear. The families that identify themselves as white may be unwilling to explain racial injustice to their children. However, these discussions are necessary for all families irrespective of skin colour because the purpose is not to raise more voice against this rather put an end to this.