Talking to Your Child About Our History
By: Litesa Wallace, ABD, M.S
Red Tails is making a huge box office impact telling the heroic tale of the esteemed TuskeegeeAirmen who simultaneously fought for the U.S. abroad while fighting the U.S. for equality andequity. As such,
I’d like to share my thoughts about teaching your child about their history. I am
writing this entry from the perspective of parent and professional.
Research shows that racial socialization has a positive effect on a person’s racial identity. So
what are race socialization and racial identity? Racial socialization is the practice of marginalized parents teaching their children about their unique cultural and historicalexperiences in the hopes of helping the child develop a positive sense of self, despite some otheragents of socialization transmitting negative messages to them. Racial identity is how oneconnects with and views himself from a racial perspective. Racial socialization is a keycomponent of child-rearing for African Americans and the development of a positive racialidentity is the goal of this process. So, with that said, here are some tips and activities that can beused to effectively discuss race with your child(ren):1.
Know your Roots
: Start with your family history. Remember th
at big ol’ Bible grandma
(or other family elder) has tucked away? Or that scrapbook one of your Aunts or Uncles has?
Well, it’s time to take those items out and share with your child(ren) your unique family history.
Emphasis your ancestors' triumphs and accomplishments; place them in historical context foryour child(ren) and try to hear firsthand accounts of some of the dynamic tales of the elders. Forexample, my Grandmother Emma migrated from Somesville, TN to Chicago around 1940 at theage of 16; this was at the height of the Great Migration. Some of the best moments of my earlychildhood were spent hearing stories of her childhood in the south.2.
in the Village?
You’ve heard the adage “it takes a village to raise a child”, I
challenge you to learn more about that village. Whether individuals are playing an active role in
your child’s life or not, they may still serve as sources of inspiration or role models in your child’s life. You may look to your local genealogical society
(you may find some here:http://www.aahgs.org/chapters.htm), research current elected officials, community leaders, orclergy members. What are their stories? How might they show your child that s/he can alsoachieve his/her goals?3.
Remember, it ain’t all roses.
Be honest about the good and the bad. Don’t start with the
subjugation many cultures in the U.S. have faced (or continue) to face. Acknowledge there is
prejudice, discrimination and racism but that’s NOT th
e beginning. For example, West AfricanCultures had long, rich histories complete with governmental structures and viable economies.They also had vast knowledge of agriculture, holistic medicine, and traditional religions (just toname a few things). Beginning a discussion about African American history with Jamestown andignoring the facts above may actually have more of a negative impact. Sadly, this is often whereschools start the discussion about African American history. Share a more holistic picture withyour child.