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Talking about Racism with Our Children

by Kristin Anderson on 2020-06-09T10:15:40-07:00 | Comments

Hey, all! Guess what? The world decided to give us yet another plot twist in this über event-packed year of 2020. Our dystopian present keeps bringing us new themes for our blog, which are actually real opportunities for us to grow as a community. If you haven’t seen yet, the library has made a statement on its stance on systemic racism. By virtue of their missions, libraries are naturally wired to strive towards equity in their communities. The nature of equity work is that we will always be able to do better, and I hope that you notice this move to become a more vocal participant in the diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation in our community over the coming weeks. This is important work we need to do. So while I’ve been blogging about adult collection topics, I’m going to trot out my children’s librarian bonafides and write a bit about materials that will help parents and children talk about these issues. If this sounds serious and uncomfortable, that is because it is. However, talking about racism with our children is part of the path forward to healing our country. Your library is here to help!

If you are like me, you were raised with the thinking that the best response to racism was an “I don’t see color” mindset. I have learned from listening to people of color that this approach does actual harm. While it is an idea that comes from a positive intent, by failing to acknowledge the differences amongst us, we have blinded ourselves to the fact that the system isn’t set up for each of us to succeed equally[CT1] . We have also built up scaffolding around ourselves that makes it difficult to see our complicity in a flawed system that benefits those of us who are white identifying. So I encourage those of you who start from this (well intentioned, but flawed) place to sit with this paragraph for a minute or two, take a deep breath, try to tamp down any rising defensiveness, feel the discomfort that it causes, and move on to working with your children so that they can be effective allies sooner than later. We should see our differences and honor them, but we should also see the similarities of our shared humanity.  This is the path forward.

OK, now that we’ve dealt with our own “stuff” and educated ourselves, let’s educate our children. Children are ready to have this conversation at different levels depending on where they are cognitively. Our very young children are ready to talk about the differences they see in the people around them and notice that these differences are part of what makes our communities richer, more interesting places. As they get older, and they have the foundation for talking about differences, we can move on to helping them understand why and how people might be treated differently based on these differences. You will know you are on the right track if they are able to articulate that these different treatments are unfair, unjust, and wrong. The next leap forward is when they are able to articulate what action they might be able to take to solve systemic problems.

As a librarian and a human, it is important to me to challenge my understanding of the world. I am committed to continuously educating and involving myself in human rights issues, but because I am only able to come at situations from my own spot on the planet, which is not as a person of color… right now what I can offer our community are the books that I have found helpful in reconciling how to be a voice for all when I personally represent only a sliver. There are dynamic voices in the world who do represent people of color, and I recommend checking out what they have to say as well, to balance out the conversation:

The library has books that can help frame these conversations at all levels. Here is a list with both nonfiction and fiction books for every age level. Generally speaking, these books deal with the rough topics of: differences, injustices, and taking action. They are sorted in general by age group order, ending with books from our teen collection. It should come as no surprise that right now many of these books are very popular; some may not be available and have wait lists. We are watching this and will order more copies as we are able. As always, you can ask your favorite Jackson County librarian at whatever location you frequent for more resources. We will be happy to help you. Feel free to reach out to me through the library catalog at JCLS_Ashland_Kristin as well.

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