If you are anything like my family, your television has been set to the news so you can follow all the information about the horrible tragedy that took place at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina. If you have kids, they may have also seen news reports about this. Here’s how you talk to them about it.
I’m a white woman married to a white man raising three kids and a stepson who are also all white. We watch the news, and we care about current events. Our kids are all aware of what happened in Charleston, South Carolina. They’ve seen the police cars and yellow tape and vigils and the man being led away in handcuffs with the bowl haircut. When something happens in the world, something almost beyond belief in its nightmarish violence, your kids will have questions. Here’s how you can address those.
When they ask why this happened, you tell them it’s racism.
You tell them the shooter, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old man sat for one hour during a Bible study and then announced he was there to shoot black people. He is a racist.
You tell them that racism is alive and well in the world, when this horrible massacre took place in a city where the Confederate flag flies over the state capital, where streets are named after Confederate generals, where the man who committed this heinous act had pro-apartheid badges on his sweater.
You tell them it’s because of racism when a black person is pulled over in their car for no reason, when a black kid is shot and his body is left in the street for hours, when a black girl is detained after a pool party for no reason, when a black teenager in Florida is shot and killed for no reason.
You talk to them about racism in this world, about how racist beliefs about black people and white people are wrong, about bias, bullying and how to be an ally to others. You teach them about diversity, about civil rights issues, about how #BlackLivesMatter. You teach them to respect and care about their black friends, their black teachers, their black civic leaders, the black people they encounter every day. You teach them that we are all equal, we are all worthy of care and respect and love and to be able to worship as we see fit in sacred places without ending up shot by a racist lunatic.
Our parents and our grandparents obviously didn’t do a good enough job with a lot of us white people. It’s up to us white parents to never raise kids who grow up to be Dylann Roof. This isn’t a black issue; this is a white issue. We need to do better, for our country, for our families, for our friends, for our neighbors and for our children. Talk to your kids. Teach them about the 9 lives that were so senselessly lost in Charleston. Teach them about racism, about equal rights and about how to be human. We have to do better.