Dear White Parents, It's Time

In fact, it's been time for so, so long.

It was time before we knew George Floyd’s name, time before we knew Ahmaud Arbery’s and Breonna Taylor’s… It was time when we were kids, and when our parents and their parents were kids; time to talk about race and racism with our communities, friends, families and our children, and to do it immediately. 

At one of my recent workshops, I’d asked the room of guardians and parents, "Who here has been talking to their kids about race & racism?"  One brave parent raised their hand and answered, "I think of the race talk like I do the sex talk - when they ask, we’ll talk." 

Makes sense, right? Although these days sex educators will tell us emphatically that no, it does not. Wait for your kids to bring up sex and it may be too late. Talk about it in age appropriate ways - often - and you stand the chance to arm your kids with life-saving information. The double bonus is you may succeed in de-stigmatizing the topic enough that they’ll continue to come to you when others wouldn’t dream of going to their parents for help. 

But this isn’t how most of us were raised. Even now, the issue of age-appropriateness often serves as our #1 reason/excuse for waiting. Why impose the burden of grown up topics and concerns on our kids, stunting their childhood experience, any sooner than we need to? Again, it seems so sensible. 

But this thought is, in and of itself, one that parents of kids of color cannot afford to have. This thought is, in and of itself, a perfect example of white privilege. (If you feel like the tone has suddenly shifted when I say the word "privilege," please give yourself a good, long belly breath, and hear this - talking about our privilege doesn’t mean we’re bad or ungrateful or didn't work for what we have. A few minutes watching the The Privilege Checklist will clear that misconception up quickly.) 

If any of this seems hyperbolic, then this is the moment where I would insert the long, tragic list of names of black and brown kids and adults who have been terrorized and/or killed for doing nothing other than what white kids and adults do all day long - walking home in their hoodie with a bag of skittles in their pocket, playing with a toy gun in the park, playing outside their house, walking out of a store, playing music in the park, going swimming, mowing the lawn, going for a run, being in costume at a halloween party, getting into their own car - with their own keys, eating ice cream on the couch in their own home… I could go on and on and on. If you’re not aware of these incidents, every one of them is true and documented; Black folks and people of color have been and continue to be terrorized in the middle of doing nothing other than any random thing we white folks do every single day, and often with deadly consequences.

There was a time, many years ago, before my white ignorance was properly shattered, that I silently thought, “There must be a reason that happened, right? My black and brown friends are safe because they’d do something differently when approached by the police… right?” 

Wrong. Dead wrong. All you need to do is research the details in these cases to educate yourself to the facts. But prepare yourself, because the process of knowing the truth about modern-day racism, losing your white-blindness and waking up to the facts of what BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and their families live with every single day, will shake your white fragility to its core. 

But as much as it hurts, it’s a hurt we gotta have, because this is our mess to clean up, people. And we need every white person who has ever cared about a person of color to burst their bubble of race-illiteracy and *decide* to do their part. The stress, pressure, and constant bullying that BIPOC and their families have to endure every single day is inhumane, and we, white people, have the responsibility to play the leading role in righting the sins of our ancestors, once and for all. 

As it happens, this is simple work. Not easy, because we humans don’t typically like to be uncomfortable. But it is simple. Read, Listen, Learn, Look at your surroundings, play “Who’s missing?” from your friend group, neighborhood, school, workplace, dinner table, social gatherings…ask yourself "why?" Speak up, share. If you’re one of the people that felt pissed off at Robin DiAngelo’s title, “White Fragility,” then consider challenging yourself to prove your toughness, and stick your toe in? 

Once we begin the process of liberating ourselves from racial illiteracy, we find the opportunities to stand up and walk our liberal talk coming to us without our even needing to look for them. In those instances, we're given the chance to be better than mere "allies," we can be actual anti-racists. Unfortunately, those opportunities are everywhere. And meeting them head on in front of our kids is like doing double duty.  We’re learning how to rise to the challenge of calling out racism and our kids are learning right along with and from us. 

We may find ourselves surprised at how much we missed before. At the dinner table, on a walk in the neighborhood, at the grocery store, in restaurants, at our kids’ sports games or plays, in book stores, on social media, in tv and movies, in off handed comments that come out of our own mouths…racism is everywhere, and the opportunities to name it, and respond intelligently and bravely, will willingly offer themselves at our feet. If we want to, we’ll develop muscle in places we never knew existed. 

Recently I shared this Instagram post and a friend reacted in a way that made it clear she’d been triggered. As I read her comment, "we’re not white people, we’re just people," I felt her exasperation. How exhausting is it to be lumped into a category of people simply because of the color of our skin? How infuriating is it to be assumed to be a certain way based on what we look like? This is the reality of BIPOC every. single.day. But let’s pause and notice an enormous difference here. For white folks, it’s irritating to be stereotyped. It pisses us off or hurts our feelings. But for BIPOC, it’s not just irritating and exhausting; it’s life threatening. 

To understand the challenge being issued here, all you need to do is try to speak up. Close your eyes and imagine hearing your mom, friend, neighbor say or do something racist - and speak up. There. Feel it? That thing, right there, that says, “Don’t do this. Danger. You’re going to offend them, piss them off, make them mad, make them not like you, they didn’t mean it, be polite.…” That’s the ‘niceness’ that has been programmed into our brains and that is responsible for keeping most of us in our complacent, conditioned white folk-fog. And it’s costing BIPOC their sanity, health and lives every single day. 

One of my favorite parenting tools is the “do over” or, as we music and film people like to sometimes call it, a “Take 2”.  At any point we can turn a typical parenting lecture into an opportunity to re-do what was done wrong and practice the feeling of what it would’ve been like it we’d done it right, or at least - better. I might say to my son, “So what’s a different way you can tell me how you feel right now?” And he gets the chance to think about a better way to express himself. He can have a do over, or Take 2. 

Why not use this tool with ourselves and our communities, as well? When I notice myself or someone else saying or doing something racist, I can bring it up, and model - or discuss - a do over. The idea, of course, is if we do this enough, we’ll start to morph our behavior into that of more aware humans who are finally seeing the problems and working together to fix it. 

I wish we could do this with the whole of our history, from the moment the colonists first set foot in North America. But since that’s impossible, it’s up to us to do everything we can now- with ourselves, and our children. It still won’t be easy. But it is simple. And it is our responsibility. 

Action: Watch, Reflect, SHARE: 

  1. You can use this article to start: Dear White Parents of My Black Child's Friends, I Need Your Help 
  2. Need help in talking to your kids about race? Here you go: Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup
  3. “The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all,” says author/historian, Jemar Tisby. “Talking to kids about race needs to happen early, often, and honestly.” How to talk to your kids about race:

 


Danielle LoPresti is a mom-musician-anti-racist-world citizen. She lives and works with her wife and son in the Bay Area and is co-owner of Durga Sound Studios.

17 comments

  • Heather Mc
    Heather Mc Oakland
    Thank you, Danielle. I talk with my 16 year old daughter often about race and sexuality and about being white and the privilege that comes with it. She shares what she's talking about with friends, seeing on Tik Tok and elsewhere, and thinking about her life, my life, and our society. I lear from her all the time. I appreciate your starting this blog now. It's past time for change, but here we are.

    Thank you, Danielle. I talk with my 16 year old daughter often about race and sexuality and about being white and the privilege that comes with it. She shares what she's talking about with friends, seeing on Tik Tok and elsewhere, and thinking about her life, my life, and our society. I lear from her all the time. I appreciate your starting this blog now. It's past time for change, but here we are.

  • Nancy
    Nancy San Diego
    Danielle..., As always you are a voice of thought, reason and hope. We love you and thank you for inspiring people of all ages. Sending your beautiful family much love and aloha.

    Danielle...,

    As always you are a voice of thought, reason and hope. We love you and thank you for inspiring people of all ages. Sending your beautiful family much love and aloha.

  • Pilita McHugh Blanchard
    Pilita McHugh Blanchard Vancouver, BC
    I love every word of this! Thank you for being a light and a resource for all those who are seeking to affect change! You are a blessing!

    I love every word of this! Thank you for being a light and a resource for all those who are seeking to affect change! You are a blessing!

  • Emily
    Emily MA
    Yes to EVERYTHING you said! MM

    Yes to EVERYTHING you said! MM

  • Amanda
    Amanda Nashville, TN
    Thank you for sharing this! || M+M

    Thank you for sharing this! || M+M

  • Christina (M+M)
    Christina (M+M) Denver
    Thank you for taking the time to write this! This was a very powerful read for me and I appreciate the resources. I am committed to doing better by reading, listening, and learning AND having conversations with my children and family and friends. You are so right - it is simple and our responsibility regardless of our own discomfort.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this! This was a very powerful read for me and I appreciate the resources. I am committed to doing better by reading, listening, and learning AND having conversations with my children and family and friends. You are so right - it is simple and our responsibility regardless of our own discomfort.

  • Paulina Rudzinska
    Paulina Rudzinska Uk
    Thank you for sharing this. I will watch and read all of the reference. I am extremely sad that black people live in fear and I would love to help to change that.

    Thank you for sharing this.
    I will watch and read all of the reference. I am extremely sad that black people live in fear and I would love to help to change that.

  • Jennifer Schumaker
    Jennifer Schumaker Escondido, California
    This is EXACTLY what we need, du clearly know. I promised to share this widely, to keep speaking up, to drop "niceness" when necessary. This is black lives in the balance, as well as our shared humanity. Hard to celebrate the shared humanity of our lives when our black brothers and sisters fear for theirs. Thank you for writing this. I can almost imagine the spiritual drain. Almost... This will help open many others' hearts and minds, and move them into action.

    This is EXACTLY what we need, du clearly know. I promised to share this widely, to keep speaking up, to drop "niceness" when necessary. This is black lives in the balance, as well as our shared humanity. Hard to celebrate the shared humanity of our lives when our black brothers and sisters fear for theirs.

    Thank you for writing this. I can almost imagine the spiritual drain. Almost...

    This will help open many others' hearts and minds, and move them into action.

  • Claire
    Claire San Diego
    Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and recommendations. They are extremely helpful.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and recommendations. They are extremely helpful.

  • Beamalgwen
    Beamalgwen BC, Canada
    “The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all." As a mom of a soon-to-be 3yo boy, I am touched by this comment. We are going to add some much needed variety to our book collection, and open the dialogue asap. Thank you for this post!

    “The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all."
    As a mom of a soon-to-be 3yo boy, I am touched by this comment. We are going to add some much needed variety to our book collection, and open the dialogue asap. Thank you for this post!

  • Charis Denison
    Charis Denison Bay Area, California
    Brave, strong, daring, beautiful. This conversation is impossible to have effectively if the goal of that conversation is to create "comfort' instead of "change." These words push ALL of us to sit with our discomfort together.... and to focus on what is most important without being distracted ..... CHANGE. NOW. Thank you Danielle.

    Brave, strong, daring, beautiful. This conversation is impossible to have effectively if the goal of that conversation is to create "comfort' instead of "change." These words push ALL of us to sit with our discomfort together.... and to focus on what is most important without being distracted ..... CHANGE. NOW.
    Thank you Danielle.

  • MC
    MC Chicago
    Yes! Thank you. I Will do this work.

    Yes! Thank you. I Will do this work.

  • Tracy
    Tracy Oakland
    I love you, your passion, your words! Your message is amazing! Thank you!

    I love you, your passion, your words! Your message is amazing! Thank you!

  • Susan W.
    Susan W. Oakland
    So brave and so much clarity. Thank you for devoting time to writing this.

    So brave and so much clarity. Thank you for devoting time to writing this.

  • Tillie
    Tillie Here
    This message needs to be heard again and again. Thank you for stepping up and holding a space for us to practice, open arms when we don’t do it perfectly, and eyes willing to see what we have done right.

    This message needs to be heard again and again. Thank you for stepping up and holding a space for us to practice, open arms when we don’t do it perfectly, and eyes willing to see what we have done right.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Austin
    I'm so happy that you are taking this on in Oakland, a city I love so much and miss every day. Will be sharing links to your info with former students and teachers at the Montessori school I used to work at in Hayward. This work is so important. Thank you!!

    I'm so happy that you are taking this on in Oakland, a city I love so much and miss every day. Will be sharing links to your info with former students and teachers at the Montessori school I used to work at in Hayward. This work is so important. Thank you!!

  • Dora
    Dora Oakland, CA
    Your message is powerful. Your word so true. I work with very young children and I know that the messages they hear and as well as unspoken messages shape who they are. Do appreciate your Take 2 strategy.

    Your message is powerful. Your word so true. I work with very young children and I know that the messages they hear and as well as unspoken messages shape who they are. Do appreciate your Take 2 strategy.

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