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How to Teach Your Parents About Racism

posted on: Apr 19, 2021

How to Teach Your Parents About Racism
Illustration by Sacrée Frangine

By: Dani Meyer/Arab America Contributing Writer

As the Black Lives Matter movement becomes part of what we talk about every day, so do conversations about anti-racism. Without a doubt, these conversations can be uncomfortable, especially when it comes to calling people out. There are forms of racism in Arab society that we need to speak out against. Even if your parents are Arab or Muslim (especially in a world with lots of xenophobia and Islamophobia), they can still normalize and contribute to anti-Black discrimination.

This is an important time to not just “roast” or “cancel” those who express racist viewpoints – it is the time to sit down and have constructive conversations. It might feel very uncomfortable, but these conversations are incredibly important. Need help? Use these tips to help have a constructive conversation with your parents about racism:

1. Don’t be confrontational.

How to Teach Your Parents About Racism

It’s easy to get caught up in a very black-and-white view during conversations about race, and even easier to get angry. But try to remember that you maybe haven’t always been as involved in being anti-racist either. So it’s important to start the conversation by acknowledging that you, too, have grown after learning about racism. You can try explaining how racism makes you feel so that it doesn’t sound like you’re blaming your parents. Frame the conversation as “an opportunity to do better” rather than something your parents have been doing wrong.

“The most important thing though is you have to be open to criticism and rejection because you don’t know how they’re going to respond,” said Albert Brown, a Minneapolis-based psychologist.

2. Use personal examples.

How to Teach Your Parents About Racism

Bringing it back to your own community is a great way to demonstrate how it affects people your parents know. You can talk about how you or people you know have experienced racism in general. There have also been many links made between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Palestinian cause – both the US and Israel were founded on ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and white supremacy. Using this link can be a great example since your parents might already know about and feel sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

3. Come with concrete ideas.

How to Teach Your Parents About Racism

It’s helpful not just to come with a list of what your parents have done wrong but also come with concrete ideas for how they can do better. That can be ideas for how to have these conversations with their friends. Did you read books and articles by people of color? Watch documentaries and movies? Talk to more people of color? Whatever you did to learn a new way of understanding race, they can do too.

4. Don’t be scared of your relationship.

How to Teach Your Parents About Racism

Family is everything in Arab communities, and it can be easy to avoid conversations for fear of damaging your relationship or not being respectful. But talking to older generations about being anti-racist is incredibly important. During the conversation, always show respect and gratitude, and be empathetic of their experiences. That being said, you can also explain why some of their behaviors might make others feel unsafe, and work with them to create positive change. Also, remember, this conversation might take a while, and people might not be open to hearing about it at first. If the conversation isn’t going anywhere, it might not be the right moment. You can come back to it later.

Talking about anti-racism is a hard conversation to have with anyone, let alone your parents. But these conversations are more important now than ever. With these tips, hopefully, you can have a constructive and productive conversation. Do you have any tips for talking to your parents about racism? Let us know in the comments.

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