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By Danielle Tessier, Communications & Development Assistant- January 14, 2021-

It’s finally 2021. We can relish our goodbyes to a year that brought more strife and challenges than any of us bargained for. Although 2020 is over, all of the problems we’ve faced will not miraculously disappear.

With a coronavirus vaccine already in distribution across the country, we are beginning to see a light amidst the darkness that this pandemic has cast over our everyday lives. Unfortunately, a vaccine cannot eliminate political divisions and address racial inequality. This is a problem we must solve together.

Systemic racism was googled more in 2020 than in any previous year. “Black Lives Matter” was amongst “election results” and “coronavirus” in the top ten search terms of 2020. It’s evident that all of us have questions about racial justice, even our children. How do we provide answers to their questions when we still have unanswered questions ourselves?

First, strive to create an environment where everyone in the family feels comfortable asking about topics that may be controversial or even frightening. The best way to perpetuate fear and uneasiness around discussing race is not talking about it at all.

Ignoring the issue minimizes its importance and leaves children without a way to process information they hear at school or from friends. Not addressing racial issues also takes away our opportunities to learn how to celebrate and appreciate the diversity around us.

Even if children are young, they notice when those around them are feeling angry or conflicted. Framing the way we are feeling about an event or topic surrounding race in an age- appropriate way is essential to helping children develop a basic understanding of racial justice. You can’t explain the history of racism to an elementary school student, but you can help them use their compassion and emotional intelligence to understand unfairness and place themselves in someone else’s shoes.

As children grow older, their understanding of race will become more complex. Encourage your whole family to listen to the voices of people of color through art, music, and writing. This is a perfect way to instill recognition of the inherent value of narratives that aren’t our own. Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum, the need and importance of diverse voices in culture cannot be dismissed.   

Listening to thoughts and concepts that challenge our own perspectives is the best way to cultivate an awareness of how we each play a role in molding a society that belongs to everyone. Acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers and leaning into our uncertainty and discomfort surrounding race is something we should all make a point to accomplish this year.

This will allow us to have more honest and open conversations with the ones we love. It will also help us be better prepared to provide answers to the tough questions our children will inevitably ask us.