Suzanne Gosselin: Talking about racial injustice with your child – here's what I said to my daughter

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A full week after George Floyd’s death, I found myself discussing racism with my 7-year-old daughter. We were riding in the car, when I asked her if she knew why people in our community were protesting, something we’d seen happening on the news.

After asking me to explain what a protest was, she admitted she didn’t know.

I took a deep breath, wondering how much of the darkness I should expose her to. I simply said, “They are protesting because sometimes people with black skin aren’t treated as fairly as those with white skin.”

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“Is my skin white?” her 5-year-old sister chimed in.

“Yes,” I said. “We are white.”

“Didn’t we already take care of that?!” my daughter exclaimed.

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“You mean with Martin Luther King Jr.?” I asked. I knew she had studied the civil rights leader during first grade.

“Yes,” she said. “We already decided all people are equal!”

Her self-assured declaration made me proud. If only it were that simple.

To my daughter, treating all people the same, regardless of how they look, was the most natural thing in the world. I explained that unfortunately inequality still exists in the world, and people have to keep standing up for what is right so everyone can receive fair treatment.

In the last few weeks, many of us were reminded that racial injustice is alive and well in our country. Depending on where we live, not all of us may observe these situations playing out in our everyday lives. This can give the illusion that prejudice and discrimination are behind us.

People who care about and uphold justice can make big changes. People who love others can make a difference. 

So when a national event highlights the truth that injustice still exists, it can be hard to know how to respond. Posting support on social media, signing a petition, educating ourselves, giving to a cause or even praying can seem like such frail attempts when confronted with such a complex and deeply rooted problem.

I was lamenting this fact to another mom, and she gave some good advice. “One thing I can do is educate my children,” she said. “My daughters and I talked over lunch about how, even though slavery is over and unjust laws have been changed, people are still treated differently because of their race. Even in today’s education system, children still may think all of that’s over now.”

It’s not over. And the truth is, completely eradicating injustice and racism isn’t likely to happen in my lifetime.

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But people who care about and uphold justice can make big changes. People who love others can make a difference. That includes lawmakers, law enforcement, faith communities and families.

Parents have a distinct opportunity to teach their children that all people are created equal — loved and valued by their Creator (Genesis 1:27).

I’m proud to see my daughter already seems to have a handle on that truth.

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Toward the end of our conversation, I said, “I hope you will always look for people who aren’t being treated fairly and stand up for them.”

“Oh, I will,” she said. “I will.”

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