Why black people teach their kids about racism

I’ve seen/heard/read much outrage at the notion that black parents would teach their children about racism and that there are people who don’t like black people. It’s been said that all it does is perpetuate hate. Let me lay something on you:

Black parents teach their kids about racism for the child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We’re not out here trying to instill hatred for other races; we’re doing what we feel is necessary to protect our children’s lives.

We would never question a parent’s motives for teaching their kid about Stranger Danger. Most children will never experience a kidnapping attempt, but we prepare them for it anyway. No one seems to get offended at the idea of preparing a child for something that will likely never occur.

Experiencing some form of racism, prejudice, and/or microaggression is more or less a given for black people. It’s rare to find a black person who has never had a negative encounter that was racially motivated, yet we are shouted down for preparing ourselves for this eventuality by people who are all too eager to clutch their pearls and cry about reverse racism.

The ability to walk into most situations and not have to give thought to how you will be received based on your race* is a sign of privilege. Black people (at least those of us in the US) don’t benefit from racial privilege, although we may benefit from other types of privilege. I can acknowledge that while I don’t benefit from racial privilege as a black person, I do benefit from privilege due to my religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity (among other things).

In the same way that we don’t teach our kids that ALL strangers are bad, or that ALL men are rapists, or that everyone is a murderer or a thief, black parents DO NOT do not teach their kids that all white people are racists. We’re teaching our children how to navigate a culture in which prejudice, microaggression, and even overt racism are accepted with little question.

We would never say of a parent having a discussion with their college-bound daughter about how to stay safe at parties that they are teaching their daughter to hate men. We would say that they were smart in teaching her that not everyone in the world has her best interests in mind. The more enlightened of us might even question why we feel the need to teach her how not to get raped rather than teaching men not to rape.

In the same way, black parents who teach their children about racism (as in what racial slurs are, what racial slurs mean, understanding microaggressions, how to respond when they face racism/prejudice) aren’t teaching their children to hate. We’re teaching their children how to stay emotionally (and sometimes physically) safe. We’re teaching their children that there are hateful, unfriendly people in the world. We’re teaching our children how to cope.

Until we live in a society where there is much less racism perpetuated (not just the cross burning, lynching kind, but also everyday prejudice and microaggressions), black people will feel the need to tell their children that racism exists and how to avoid/react to/identify people and institutions that are racist.  IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT WE HATE WHITE PEOPLE. It means that we recognize the existence of racism and want to do our best to arm ourselves against it with the (vain) hope that it will hurt less.

Experiencing racism is a dehumanizing, emotionally charged event. While teaching our kids about racism doesn’t prevent them from being victims of racist acts, it does help them to know how to respond when they experience it and how to emotionally process it.

White people aren’t the problem. Racism is the problem. We aren’t telling our kids to avoid white people altogether. We’re teaching our kids to stay away from ignorant, racist people.

If you don’t want to be part of the problem, take the time to learn what is offensive and why it’s offensive. Learn about other races/cultures and the issues that they face in America. Take stock of the things that you take for granted, and consider how a person from another race/culture might relate to them.

You might ask why? Why even teach it?

Here’s why:

My mom taught me Stranger Danger. She told me how to stay safe at parties and to check my back seat before I get in my car. I lock my doors at night. I know how to shoot.

I do all those things, but I’ve never been kidnapped or had anyone attempt to kidnap me. I’ve never been drugged or raped. No one has ever tried to murder me or break into my house. I’ve never had to shoot anyone.


I have been called a nigger to my face. I’ve had people say hateful things about my race to my face. I’ve had someone display racial aggression toward me. I’ve experienced myriad microaggressions. I’ve been rejected by people because of my race. I’ve encountered CHRISTIANS who believed my marriage was ungodly because I’m married to a white man. These are just the things that have happened to ME…I won’t tell some of the stories of things that have happened to close family members.

I can teach my daughter about Tricky People (the modern version of Stranger Danger) and be viewed as being a good parent, but teaching my child that racism exists is considered hateful and contributing to ‘the problem.’

That’s a load of crap.

Teaching our children how to navigate a complex and often harsh world will never be the problem. The problem will always be the people who propagate a culture of hate.

If the idea of black people teaching their kids that racism exists bothers you, then you should do what you can to build a world in which black people feel safe.



*Or sexual orientation, class, gender identity, religion, ethnicity, national origin, physical ability

Posted by The Armchair Commentary

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