You may notice that this post is written anonymously. I am sad that I don’t have the courage to sign my name to it. I’m hiding behind my privilege as a favor to others. I’m lucky. I can hide behind that privilege because I am white. I can move freely through this world and not encounter racism unless I choose to engage it. Others are not that fortunate.
But here I remain nameless because I was asked to do so and I respect the person who asked me to keep my name off of this post. But I want to talk about white supremacy and how it affects us living here in Victoria and how we can talk to our kids about it.
The conversation began for me innocently enough. I was in the neighborhood of Craigdarrach Castle walking around with my family on a lovely summer day. Tourists moved through the quiet streets; tour buses packed with visitors made their way from the castle to the grounds of Government House. And a flag hanging in a window of a house near the Castle caught our eye. I didn’t recognize the flag, neither did my husband. Our kids asked us which country it represented but we had no clue. So out came the smart phone and a quick Google search answered the question but left us silent as we tried to figure out how to explain it to our kids.
Reminiscent of the Nazi flag, this one features a series of Ks instead of the infamous swastika on a field of green instead of red. It was born out of a meme in 4Chan (one of the darker corners of the internet) but has grown to represent the alt-right movement and their leader Donald Trump. The goal of the flag is to troll liberals.
Well, consider me trolled.
The flag represents Kekistan or the values of Kek, which “in the alt-right’s telling, is the ‘deity’ of the semi-ironic ‘religion’ the white nationalist movement has created for itself online – partly for amusement, as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives both and to make a political point” (David Neiwert (2017). What is Kek. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/05/08/what-kek-explaining-alt-right-deity-behind-their-meme-magic)
I assume this neighbour is perhaps trolling his fancy Rockland neighbourhood where you are more likely to see signs decrying over-development rather than white supremacy. But I still had to explain the flag to my kids.
I felt the time had come to talk to my kids about what it meant to be white and how we can’t be silent about our privilege. Like many other tough subjects we’ll approach with our kids I believe the experts are right when they recommend an ongoing or open dialogue, rather than a one time talk. I believe that not acknowledging race and not talking about it makes it almost seem taboo, and those barriers need to come down.
But first we need to acknowledge that perhaps our children are not as colour blind as we’d like to think. Children start noticing and applying meaning to race at a very young age. Kids are like adults. They work (through play usually) to construct and understand rules in their own worlds. They learn and decode through what they see around them and this includes skin colour. It is naive and again comes back to that privilege to think that children are not aware of race.
So this is how I explain the idea of white privilege and white supremacy to my kids:
Race is not biological
This is the first step. My kids understand that some people look different than they do but that is not due to the fact those people are biologically different. People have different colour skin but they are still homo sapiens, they are still people. Inside and out we are all the same. Race is something that we build socially – it is something used to define and separate people. The idea that black people, or First Nations, or anyone who looks different than them are inherently different inside and out is wrong. They are treated differently (by some) and have been treated differently over history because people thought biologically they were different but those differences are all created.
It’s not about White Guilt
This one can be tricky. As a white child my kids understand that they are not responsible for Residential schools. They do not have to feel bad about things done by others who shared the same skin color as them. Feeling bad about advantages they may have as white kids is normal and a reaction that I expect my kids to have, but I don’t let them indulge in it. Rather I push them to acknowledge that feeling and then figure out how to change the situation.
Answer every Question Honestly
This may be tougher than it seems but it is important. Especially when you see a flag hanging in someone’s window that is clearly there to spark outrage. Tell your kids why that flag is there, what it represents, and why it angers people. When my kids asked me why someone would hang that flag I answered point blank, “because they think the colour of their skin makes them better than other people with different coloured skin.” Then as a parent you can expand upon that. You could ask them why someone would feel that way.
Race and racism has played an integral part of our society here in BC. It has had important impacts on our economy. Chinese labor was used to build our railroads yet we did not allow Chinese people to vote in BC until 1947. Residential schools were a systemic abusive system designed to eradicate an entire culture. Children can begin to understand, with our help, that racism is systemic. It is not just about other people being mean to other people. This is about people taking advantage of others based entirely on what they look like. These are tough subjects to talk to your kids about but they are talking points and historical markers we should be talking about. New guidelines for curriculum in BC schools is helping with this aspect and a great place to start would be with your child’s teacher to see what books they would recommend that are age appropriate.
Acknowledge your White Privilege (if applicable)
After the discussion about whether I should put my name on this piece I talked to my kids about how fortunate I was to have this choice. I told them that as a white person I hold power to shape what happens to me and that benefit is not afforded to all of them. I don’t want my kids to live by the mantra that since they are white they are responsible, but I want them to know that many of the things they take for granted here in Victoria are entirely due to their privilege. I tell my kids that we are very fortunate in that I can choose whether or not to educate them about racism. After we spotted the flag we talked about how as white people we feel welcomed and normal as we moved through the Rockland neighborhood, how that feeling of normalcy occurs to us at almost every public space in Victoria. This was a crucial moment where we acknowledged our white privilege.
Talking to your kids about racism and white supremacy is not easy and is not something that we as mothers can solve. Moments like the flag one help open dialogue and take away power from the instigator. In our case this moment of spotting this flag became way less about this guy who lives on this street and his issues and became about our family and how we responded to discussions of racism.