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Art by Erin Armstrong 

It’s time to have “the talk”

A few weeks ago, Procter & Gamble released a “controversial” commercial on having the race talk. The video, full of emotive scenes and realities, depicts throughout the decades the obstacles and lessons Black parents have had to express to their children, even to this day. The main lesson being taught? Teaching children of color how to build resilience to combat racism. 

As defined by Google, resilience is: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

In other words, you are building a protection and an ability to snap back from adversity. Sounds hard and it is, but as we recently have seen, racism is very much alive in the U.S. And, because of the constant afflictions thrown at parents of color, it is easy to forget our future is in our children. We mustn’t forget we have a large influence on who and how they grow up to be. Our children, who are inevitably viewing the unnecessary deaths, venomous hatred, and hostility through millions of portable screens, are absorbing the information that seems almost impossible to filter out. What we need to be asking ourselves is, how do we prepare children of color for the reality, rather than let them fend for themselves?

Now, before you rant off on thinking I am defending a political party, I will show you why “the talk” needs to be had, based on our beloved science. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is: “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences… Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

Hard, but doable. 

“…kids who experienced more racism…were more likely to report sleep troubles, mood swings, difficulty concentrating or other symptoms of depression.”

But then… shouldn’t we just consistently shield children from being mistreated? Yes, but we can’t. Parents cannot entirely protect them from the exterior world, they cannot hide them from all the school mates, neighbors, store clerks, teachers, social media, anyone and everyone. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Children are children, they know no differences unless they are taught, they know no hate, unless they are taught. Their main concern should be to play, learn, and continue expanding their imaginatively rich curiosity. And it isn’t fair some children are to be burdened with learning how to defend themselves when parents cannot protect, they shouldn’t have to. But they must.

Because racial differences start young:

“Most children actively notice and think about race. A new study has found that children develop an awareness about racial stereotypes early, and that those biases can be damaging… it can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests. For example, African American and Latino youths who were aware of broadly held stereotypes about their groups performed poorly on a standardized test, confirming the negative stereotype in a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

And by 9? 

“…kids who experienced more racism…were more likely to report sleep troubles, mood swings, difficulty concentrating or other symptoms of depression.”

All ages? 

“…findings suggest that discrimination experience can have biological impacts in pregnancy and across generations… increase stress hormones that tax the body’s immune system, and over time can erode physical health.”

Not only does racism aggressively affect humans on an emotional, self-esteem, and psychological level, but long exposures of discrimination can even begin to affect people on a physical level (don’t even get me started on epigenetics). However difficult and painful it may be, we must begin teaching our children to arm themselves with resilience, because racism affects ALL age groups.

Furthermore,

if you are interested on beginning the talk with your children, read these tips on age appropriateness, how to‘s, and much more: http://www.apa.org/pi/res/parent-tips.pdf

Here is the commercial produced by Procter & Gamble: 

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