I was shocked to learn that by age 5, most white children are already biased towards whiteness. I’m certainly not teaching Della to be racist, but turns out if I don’t actively counter racist ideas she will develop them anyway! Through some research, I learned that the best way to build a racially inclusive mindset in her is to consistently expose her to multicultural groups represented in diverse ways and to talk to her regularly about racism and why it’s wrong.
For Black History Month, I want to share a few tools you can use with your kiddos to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of Black Americans and educate your little one on the richness and beauty of Black culture and expression.
Mahzarin Banaji is a renowned Harvard University psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert. Banaji’s research confirmed that white children as young as 5 are already strongly biased towards whiteness, and that we can counter this bias by acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Banaji’s research also suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings.
As parents of babies and toddlers, we play an incredibly important role in setting up future generations to dismantle systems that hurt the children of humanity. I’m committed to giving Della the information and tools she needs to continue that work so that we can build a better world for all children.
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Using this blog post by Carlean Robson as my inspiration, here’s what we’re planning on doing to recognize Black History Month!
Study an Influential Person
There are so many influential and inspirational Black Americans. For Della, we’re focusing on a creator, a civil rights leader, a mom who fought for food equity, and a woman in STEM.
Lizzo, Time’s Entertainer of the Year 2019
Who isn’t inspired by Lizzo these days?! She’s had a breakthrough year of success and has become a huge inspiration for a lot of young girls and women. She teaches about body positivity, practicing patience, valuing your self-worth, being true to yourself, and just loving yourself for who you are. Plus, who doesn’t feel ‘Good As Hell’ when throwing a little dance party! Just make sure you find the non-explicit versions, like the ones through Kidz Bop!
Ella Baker, The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement
Our favorite quote by Ella Baker is: “I didn’t break the rules, but I challenged the rules”. Ella Baker is one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. She played an integral behind the scenes role as one of the only women in leadership of the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), In Friendship, the Young Negroes Cooperative League, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Baker was responsible for connecting young student leaders in SNCC with the older leaders of MLK’s SCLC, and convincing them to actively support more intense nonviolent civil disobedience tactics like the freedom rides and lunch counter sit-ins. She focused most of her life on training and mentoring the next generation to fight for human and civil rights until her death. We want Della to know her name because she was a courageous force of power and light that was steadfast in her belief and moved towards good change with determination.
Barbara Lee, Food Freedom Fighter
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee raised her two sons on her own, using them and her experiences as the driving force to protecting the rights of marginalized groups. In 2013, Lee defended the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps. “When I was a young, single mother, I was on public assistance. It was a bridge over troubled water, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I spent hours debating what to buy and what to skip, all the while keeping my sons in my mind. I could go without breakfast; my sons couldn’t.” Her passion to make sure her kids and all the other children out there are well-fed is one that we want to pass on to Della.
Katherine Johnson, The Human Computer
Katherine Johnson is a pioneer of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She broke down barriers and helped put an astronaut into orbit around Earth! Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. We want Della to know that she can amount to whatever she wants to be and change history, just like Katherine Johnson.
Adding to Our Library
One of Della’s favorite books is Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. We use The Conscious Kid for other book recommendations. They are an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to equity and promoting healthy racial identity development in youth and they support organizations, families, and educators to disrupt racism in young children.
Learn about Soul Food & Involve Little Ones in Cooking!
We love including Della in the kitchen already so this recommended activity is a no-brainer! We’ll be using this article to teach her about Soul Food and its history and trying some dishes that she hasn’t had before. Here are the items we’re planning on whipping up:
- Collard Greens
- Black Eyed Peas
- Southern Fried Chicken - We’ll sub in almond flour instead of all-purpose flour!
We’re excited to do all of these activities to not only educate ourselves but to educate Della. Do you have other ways of recognizing the importance of Black History Month? Let us know in the comments below!