Disclaimer: I want to support your modern family.
Like every article I write, I am trying to be helpful and educational.
I grew up in a mostly-white community of San Diego with good, loving, non-racist parents.
We had less than ten black students in my large high school.
None were my close friends.
When I became an adult I started coaching and mentoring these teens...who grew up like I did.
I started hearing racist comments and jokes coming from the kids.
It deeply bothered me. I wondered, "Why are they saying this? These are good kids. I know his/her parents aren't racist and would be appalled by this, so where did this come from?"
I didn't just learn about racism from people of color.
I learned a lot about racism from listening to white, California teenagers for 20+ years.
Here are three things I've learned...
1. Social Media Has Promoted Racist Memes and Racist Humor To Teens
10-15 years ago, apps like Twitter, iFunny, Instagram and Tumblr exploded amongst modern teens. Teens downloaded, watched, and absorbed all types of new content.
Most parents had no idea what their kids were looking at.
I looked. I absorbed. I learn.
I was shocked and disgusted...
Racist memes. Racist jokes.
Lots of them.
Everywhere. Every app.
I would observe tweens/teens laugh at this content, share it, and sit around the lunch table and laugh at it together.
I view this as a sort of brainwashing.
I started speaking out about racist humor in social media in my parenting seminars 10-15 years ago. I wanted parents to know this is a potential way that good teens, from good families, start having racist thoughts.
(Note: I have intentionally not decided to share an example here. I don't want to even indirectly promote it. If you want to see examples, they are easy to find.)
Thankfully, some apps have begun policing these racist, evil memes. Thankfully, some users police their social media communities.
Action Step: Parents, teens and app developers need to work together to stop the use and sharing of racist content to children.
2. White Parents Need To Teach Children That Modern Racism Is Often Subtle.
Racism isn't just a cop killing an unarmed black man. Racism isn't just when someone uses a racial slur.
Racism isn't just in the "big things".
Most people of color understand this.
Racism is also spread with...
-how teen's joke amongst themselves.
-how parents talk about other neighborhoods.
-how teen's talk about stereotypes, clicks (social groups), music and fashion.
Action-Step: Parents need to teach their children how subtle racism can occur, and model good communication in their home.
3. Good Teens, From Good Families, Need Help and Education Understanding Racism and Race Relations
As a teen from my neighborhood, I didn't understand color, race-relations or subtle racism.
Furthermore, my white late-grandfather, a WWII veteran, would sometimes make racist jokes about the Japenese people to me, his grandson. By doing this, my grandpa indirectly taught me that racist humor was ok...and normal.
I now better understand that if I made those same jokes to my three daughters, I would be perpetuating racism to them, in our home.
It can be very uncomfortable for white people like me to discuss race issues with others, even with our white family members. Many of us may become defensive. Others may not want to take the time to really listen and understand.
I have learned that allowing space for people to talk...and really listen...is foundational, and life-changing.
I am doing this myself. My black friend Teohn Conner, husband and father of two, (pictured right) is helping me to understand the current events. Teohn helped me write this article and told me, "Allowing space for both parties to have those conversations can ease the tension surrounding such a hard topic that will ultimately spill over into home life."
Action-Step: I wish they would, but your children/teens will probably never take a school class about race, color, police-brutality, racial fear, the subtleties of racism or how to break systematic racism.
So who will teach them?
As I like to teach/write/say: "Parents are the most powerful teachers in their child's life."
So don't just model healthy communication to your children. Speak up. Teach them what a healthy human mindset is.
Teach them that they need to have the courage to call out biases, humor, and racial fears.
We now understand that this is an invaluable aspect to how change actually happens. This is how we break then cycle.
Take the lead in ending racism in our society by how you parent.
Teach your kids to stand up to racist humor, memes or jokes.
Teach them to fight racism with their words, with their love, with their peaceful protest.
Teach them to be better than us.
Click HERE to watch my Live Instagram on the topic. 👉🏻
Stay Strong. Be Close. Teach Wisdom.
Family Coach, Founder
Click HERE to go deeper with Sean.
Click HERE to read "Young Men Are Lions - And Need To To Feel Like One."
Click HERE to read “7 Things EVERY Teen Girl Needs to Hear From Her Parents.”
Click HERE for Sean's article, "Why Teens Need EQ Skills".
Click HERE to read Sean's article, "How To Evaluate Your Teen's Emotional Maturity".
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