BY THE ANTIRACISM TASK FORCE AT ST. IGNATIUS CHURCH, BALTIMORE | July 7, 2021
[Editor’s Note: This Just Parenting piece is an adaptation of a recent virtual workshop hosted by the Antiracism Task Force at St. Ignatius Church, a Jesuit Parish in Baltimore, MD. Task force members include Allison Clayton, Deacon Andrew Lacovara, Isabelle Garcia, Fr. Jim Casciotti, SJ, Kate Flores, Kendall Conder (co-chair), Samantha Stein, Toni Moore-Duggan, Kevin Burdinski (co-chair) and Eric Clayton.]
The work of antiracism isn’t just for adults. That’s why the Antiracism Awareness Task Force of the parish community of St. Ignatius Church in downtown Baltimore, Maryland recently led a guided discussion on how to be an antiracist parent.
Here are the 8 steps we committed to take:
1. Don’t look for a “perfect” moment.
There is no “perfect” moment to talk to your kids about race. Our primary goal should be creating spaces in our lives for intentional conversations, and then responding to the needs of the moment.
2. Embrace the awkward.
When having conversations with children, embrace the inevitably awkward and uncomfortable moments. These moments allow us all to grow. Go wherever the conversation leads you, remembering always that the goal is to form our children as young antiracists.
3. Use “mirrors” and “windows.”
Books, movies, TV shows and other forms of media can be “mirrors” or “windows” to the young antiracist. “Mirrors” are forms of media that reflect our own lived experience back at us; “windows” help us see the experience of another—and build empathy as a result. Shows and movies featuring People of Color can be helpful for younger children; historically-based novels are good resources for older children. Resources such as these help expand our children’s worldview beyond their immediate group of friends.
4. Show. Don’t just tell.
There are a lot of ways to practice antiracism. It’s important for each of us to pick what works best for our children. We might take advantage of opportunities made available through our local church, school, or community center. Reading and talking about antiracism is important, but it’s made real in concrete action.
5. Turn service opportunities into moments of antiracism.
Our children are often required to complete a period of service at school or church. How can we frame these requirements as opportunities to engage in antiracism? How are we helping our children understand the wider context in which their service takes place?
6. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.
Bringing our children to protests and marches can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a great way to help children realize there’s a whole community that cares about antiracism. Do what is comfortable and appropriate for your family; even simply observing a march from a distance allows our children to ask questions like, “Why are people doing this? Why does it matter?” The simple act of making signs with your children to hold at a rally or display in a window in your home can lead to an important conversation.
7. Always respond with compassion—but don’t miss a teachable moment.
Our faith calls us to always respond to one another in compassion. This includes those family members or friends with whom we disagree. When we’re faced with a situation when a family member or friend is acting inappropriately in front of our children, direct confrontation in the moment may not be the best or most productive thing to do. Consider having a conversation with that individual separately and then circling back with your child to discuss how you handled the situation and why.
8. There is no one right way.
There are countless ways to engage in the essential, Gospel work of antiracism. Your approach is exactly that—your approach. It’s what’s best for your family. The goal is to raise a generation of antiracists and to equip our children with virtues of empathy, compassion and solidarity. Don’t get down on yourself or your partner if you fall short, if your approach is different from your neighbors. All you have to do is recommit yourself and your family each day to living as antiracists.
Questions for Reflection:
- What am I consciously doing to develop an antiracist awareness within my child?
- How often do I have conversations with my children about race?
- If I do have a conversation, how often is it one I initiated? If it’s one I didn’t initiate, did I truly have a conversation, or did I try to get out of it as quickly as possible to escape the awkwardness of the situation?
- Are my children exposed to books and media that promote antiracism? How are my children exposed to “mirrors” and “windows”?
- How often are my children being exposed to other races and cultures? Am I actively presenting these opportunities?
- What types of antiracist activities would best suit my child’s personality and interests?
The image above is courtesy of St. Ignatius Church. If you are interested in contemplating how God—and the stories of God’s people—can and should be represented in the symbols and images in our sacred spaces, check out Imago Dei: Encountering God’s People Through Religious Imagery and Storytelling, a digital retreat created by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and U.S. and featuring St. Ignatius Church.
You are also invited to explore how St. Ignatius and other Catholic parishes are working for racial justice and equity here.