Raising hope: Parenting in an anti-Black environment
The world my children live in is divided in two, as Frantz Fanon wrote in 1952 in The Wretched of the Earth. It is a world divided in endless opposites, a world still pained by the atrocities of the past, the endless generation of trauma in the present, guaranteeing even more atrocities for their future.
But I know that an important gift we have to give our African/Black babies and racialized little ones is hope. I say this as a mother whose own mother, and grandmother, and ancestors before us were enslaved and chained to lands not our own, lands haunted by Indigenous genocide, taken and toiled with by so many inhumane impossibilities. Yet they were cradled by freedom, rocked by resistance and fed by unimaginable and well-earned rage and persistence.
This insistent cloak of hope — sturdy and planned, fierce and feared and crafted to perfection — is the tool that will destroy the master’s house.
In the era of Trump, in which anti-African/Black racism and other forms of hate and violence are a daily occurrence, it’s critical to reflect on the possibilities for our Black and racialized children’s existence and our parenting in hostile grounds.
As a community practitioner, activist, artist, academic and mother of two who is engaged in intersectional justice work, writing on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr Day (MLK Day) is an emotional endeavour. I have grown up, learned, lived, cried and dined on the voices and actions of revolutionary fervour.
I have debated the value of non-violent actions versus armed solutions and have both researched and witnessed — supported and experienced — the impact of violence on our health. Anti-Black racism and other forms of trauma can severely impact our health and well-being.
Honouring our past
MLK Day is more than just a day. For Black people in North America and around the world, it is a practice and a lifestyle. While our civil rights are reflected upon and fought for 365 days a year, MLK Day is a reminder to honour the voices and actions of our pasts. We must not forget their lessons and their inflexible commitment to justice work in often unthinkable conditions.
MLK day is a reminder to honour the voices of our past. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is seen here at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Rowland Scherman; restored by Adam Cuerden – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration), CC BY-NC
As Black folks and others ponder, debate and engage with each other on MLK day — like we do most every day — I would like to leave you with eight critical ideas to help parent our children in our current climate.
These ideas are important to provide guidance and tools for parents often isolated and preoccupied with constantly reacting to grievous acts of violence against our children and on our minds and bodies.
I want to provide hope and support for continued resistance. I want to spark critical conversations in our communities to deconstruct and challenge anti-African/Black racism and all forms of intersectional trauma, while forming collective responses and actions.
Eight tips for parenting in an anti-Black racism climate:
Teach our children about love for self and love for our communities. Teach them empathy, passion and the importance of African/Black reunification processes.
That is, we should teach our children to see each other as connected and in familial ways. By doing this, we stand the chance of rebuilding from the transgenerational trauma of forced separation, isolation and deportation of African and Indigenous peoples globally as a result of enslavement and colonialism. The “I am Haitian, I am Nigerian, I am Colombian, I am Somalian, I am Trinidadian, I am Brazilian” (to name a few) and “I am you” strategy.
This is not to be confused with homogenizing all African identities as the same. Rather, it teaches our children that we are of the same or of similar cloth but differently woven and actualized.
Roberta is Co-Director of Continuing Healing Consultants and has engaged in anti-oppression consulting in the Toronto and global communities since 1997. She is also co-founder and trainer of Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy™.
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