Discussing Racial Issues with a Teen

Staci_W

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Apr 19, 2013
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Where the grass is greener
My son is 15. He is white. We live in a very white state. When I graduated highschool, there was one black girl in my class of 450. My son does not have any black classmates.

Yesterday, I brought up the protests to him. Surprisingly, he was very opinionated on it. "Cops aren't racist" was his stance. He does not think that there is racial injustice in the world. When I brought up George Floyd, he said that was probably wrong but it doesn't mean it was a racial issue. "White people can get killed while being arrested too."

The conversation didn't go well. Mostly because I was unprepared for it. At one point, my son said that I can't believe the things I see on social media (so he had a point there) that I should do my research. I asked him what research I should do. He said I should do internet research. Digging further, he said that I need to go to reputable sources, like pages ending in .gov or .org. Like how he would research a school paper.

I'm wanting to broach this subject with him again, better prepared. Any tips? How do you talk about inequality with a teen who isn't personally effected and does not see it in his everyday life? I feel it's important for him to have at least somewhat of an understanding about what is happening in the world right now. I don't want to raise a man who might later be part of the problem.
 
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nvie

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It’s probably us who differentiate colours and not kids. My two boys are studying in an international school with many races and nationalities. They don’t even differentiate nationalities whether you are local or not, to them everyone is the same. During my younger days in school, living in a multiracial country, we do not see a difference.

Things change when there’s inequality in our system. Special privileges to certain races when it comes to education, owning property, taxes in my country. The underlying intention is good, meant to help the underprivileged. But when policies have been implemented without review for decades, that’s not good. We all grew up knowing that there are certain privileges we will not be able to enjoy a citizen. So we work hard with the mentality never depend on the system.

It is sad that Floyd case happened and ended in that manner but what if everyone at the scene at that point is one colour? Would general public then go in social status, that’s possible. There’s always room for general public to differentiate.

I don’t have an answer on how to address your teen but I felt he will eventually understand and usually hatred sets in when the environment is full of it, which eventually escalates to protests, riots, looting. Anyone who is too free and has nothing else to lose will go to the extreme. Perhaps you may want to stress on the importance of being compassionate, treat each other with respect etc from humanity point of view rather than race.
 
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n3w2luxury

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Feb 16, 2020
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That's amazing that you're trying to do the right thing by educating him, and it's important that he learns about privilege vs systemic racism sooner rather than later, especially since he is a white male. He's still young so it's not too late!

You can check out the link that's pinned above by the moderators: "If you want to deepen your anti-racism work, here is a comprehensive document with resources on books for kids, podcasts, articles, videos and more." I also saw an educational video from act.tv that's being passed around on Instagram and it's broken down very simply so that it's easy to understand. If all else fails, maybe you can show him news articles of all the other cases of black lives being taken away so senselessly since those are real things that have happened and cannot be misconstrued.
 
Oct 22, 2016
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Hi!

I'm white, I'm not a parent so I probably shouldn't answer on this, but I will try.

I think your discussion went very well, because it highlighted (part of) the problem.

Your son lives in a world without racism because there (probably) is none to be found in the world he currently lives in. He doesn't see it, he doesn't witness it, friends don't tell him about it.

So rather than trying to discuss racism based on his experience, I'd suggest doing some research together.

Can your son drive/ get a drivers license when he turns sixteen? Is that "a thing" for him?

If it is, it could be a starting point. There's so much high quality reporting and data on it, it might make it more feasible for him that he is privileged in probably not ever feeling fear or anxiety because of a traffic stop, but that so many POC do.

-> https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/findings/

-> https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/the-stop-race-police-traffic/

-> https://www.washingtonpost.com/opin...tests-when-police-unjustly-kill-white-people/

The WP one goes really deep, lot's of cross references, not sure it's suitable for a fifteen year old. And don't be put off by the link title, it's not "one of those" opinion pieces.

I think if I was a teacher, teaching mainly white kids almost old enough to drive, maybe in the process of getting driver licenses, that's a topic I'd use for education about racism.

Kind regards,
Oliver
 
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sdkitty

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Jan 16, 2006
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My son is 15. He is white. We live in a very white state. When I graduated highschool, there was one black girl in my class of 450. My son does not have any black classmates.

Yesterday, I brought up the protests to him. Surprisingly, he was very opinionated on it. "Cops aren't racist" was his stance. He does not think that there is racial injustice in the world. When I brought up George Floyd, he said that was probably wrong but it doesn't mean it was a racial issue. "White people can get killed while being arrested too."

The conversation didn't go well. Mostly because I was unprepared for it. At one point, my son said that I can't believe the things I see on social media (so he had a point there) that I should do my research. I asked him what research I should do. He said I should do internet research. Digging further, he said that I need to go to reputable sources, like pages ending in .gov or .org. Like how he would research a school paper.

I'm wanting to broach this subject with him again, better prepared. Any tips? How do you talk about inequality with a teen who isn't personally effected and does not see it in his everyday life? I feel it's important for him to have at least somewhat of an understanding about what is happening in the world right now. I don't want to raise a man who might later be part of the problem.
sounds like he has some pretty strong opinions....is he being influenced by his dad or his friends or someone else? just because he doesn't have black people in his world, doesn't seem to explain the opinion that racism doesn't exist IMO
 

Staci_W

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Apr 19, 2013
2,082
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Where the grass is greener
sounds like he has some pretty strong opinions....is he being influenced by his dad or his friends or someone else? just because he doesn't have black people in his world, doesn't seem to explain the opinion that racism doesn't exist IMO
My son has horrible social anxiety. He hardly ever leaves his room. He doesn't have friends in our current city.
He does have friends from where we used to live. They play together on Xbox. I often hear him talking to them. Haven't heard anything about current events ever being discussed. Obviously, I don't hear everything. It would he off though that they were having in discussions about this.
He sees his dad infrequently. He was last there over Memorial day weekend. That was before George Floyd. I would not be surprised if these were his dad's views. There just hasn't been a lot of opportunity for them to discuss it.
I used to have friends in the police force. When we lived in a different city, sometimes they came to our house. My son has seen police as friends. When he said "cops aren't racist" it made me think of that.
 

sdkitty

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My son has horrible social anxiety. He hardly ever leaves his room. He doesn't have friends in our current city.
He does have friends from where we used to live. They play together on Xbox. I often hear him talking to them. Haven't heard anything about current events ever being discussed. Obviously, I don't hear everything. It would he off though that they were having in discussions about this.
He sees his dad infrequently. He was last there over Memorial day weekend. That was before George Floyd. I would not be surprised if these were his dad's views. There just hasn't been a lot of opportunity for them to discuss it.
I used to have friends in the police force. When we lived in a different city, sometimes they came to our house. My son has seen police as friends. When he said "cops aren't racist" it made me think of that.
I'm sorry I'm not a parent and dont' really have advice for you. But I think it's good that you're talking to him and keeping an eye out. Possibly if there's a chance that he's being fed information from someone who is racist you could try to get him to watch some news from CNN or PBS?

It's not bad to see cops as friends but it would be good if he understood that not all of them are good and that boys of color don't see them that that way. they fear them.

this whole thing is sad for good cops too. the bad ones are endangering the lives of the good ones.
 
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Sep 2, 2007
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My son is 15. He is white. We live in a very white state. When I graduated highschool, there was one black girl in my class of 450. My son does not have any black classmates.

Yesterday, I brought up the protests to him. Surprisingly, he was very opinionated on it. "Cops aren't racist" was his stance. He does not think that there is racial injustice in the world. When I brought up George Floyd, he said that was probably wrong but it doesn't mean it was a racial issue. "White people can get killed while being arrested too."

The conversation didn't go well. Mostly because I was unprepared for it. At one point, my son said that I can't believe the things I see on social media (so he had a point there) that I should do my research. I asked him what research I should do. He said I should do internet research. Digging further, he said that I need to go to reputable sources, like pages ending in .gov or .org. Like how he would research a school paper.

I'm wanting to broach this subject with him again, better prepared. Any tips? How do you talk about inequality with a teen who isn't personally effected and does not see it in his everyday life? I feel it's important for him to have at least somewhat of an understanding about what is happening in the world right now. I don't want to raise a man who might later be part of the problem.
Oh! I so empathize with you! I am a parent to two teenage girls. I am, however, not white. My girls are half white, half Filipino and we live in a predominantly white affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles. My husband is white and has been living in denial about the racism rampant in our society and even in our neighborhood. He has only realized the existence of racism because he has two children who identify as non-white. I had people come to my front door and ask to speak to the lady of the house, because of course, I could not possibly live in this lovely house or asking for my ID to prove it was my house. I, by the way, am an attorney and my husband is a doctor.

I love that you are trying and I thank you. I believe the only way your son will learn is when something affects him personally. When he becomes friends with a person of color and witnesses for himself the difference in treatment; maybe he will notice, one day, when he and his black or brown friend go to a movie or restaurant, the waitress will address your son and ignore his friend. Yes, this happens, the subtle, yet degrading slights.

This is a beginning of the conversation. In the meantime, Thank you for your empathy.
 

sdkitty

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Jan 16, 2006
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Oh! I so empathize with you! I am a parent to two teenage girls. I am, however, not white. My girls are half white, half Filipino and we live in a predominantly white affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles. My husband is white and has been living in denial about the racism rampant in our society and even in our neighborhood. He has only realized the existence of racism because he has two children who identify as non-white. I had people come to my front door and ask to speak to the lady of the house, because of course, I could not possibly live in this lovely house or asking for my ID to prove it was my house. I, by the way, am an attorney and my husband is a doctor.

I love that you are trying and I thank you. I believe the only way your son will learn is when something affects him personally. When he becomes friends with a person of color and witnesses for himself the difference in treatment; maybe he will notice, one day, when he and his black or brown friend go to a movie or restaurant, the waitress will address your son and ignore his friend. Yes, this happens, the subtle, yet degrading slights.

This is a beginning of the conversation. In the meantime, Thank you for your empathy.
I saw this when I had a friend who was dark skinned (Persian). I was shocked at some of the treatment she got when we were together.
 
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whateve

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I empathize with your situation. People who haven't experienced discrimination often doubt that it exists. My own DH doesn't believe me when I tell him the times I experienced it. He thinks I've exaggerated or misinterpreted. The best thing for your son, but I think it would be difficult to arrange, would be for him to become friends with people of color. Possibly doing some research on the civil rights movement, going back into history, might help him understand. There are some movies that would be helpful in helping him gain an understanding.
 
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sdkitty

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I empathize with your situation. People who haven't experienced discrimination often doubt that it exists. My own DH doesn't believe me when I tell him the times I experienced it. He thinks I've exaggerated or misinterpreted. The best thing for your son, but I think it would be difficult to arrange, would be for him to become friends with people of color. Possibly doing some research on the civil rights movement, going back into history, might help him understand. There are some movies that would be helpful in helping him gain an understanding.
I don't know what your ethnic origin is but it seems odd to me that if you experience racism he hasn't observed it when he's with you.....? people don't act this way in front of him?
 
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whateve

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I don't know what your ethnic origin is but it seems odd to me that if you experience racism he hasn't observed it when he's with you.....? people don't act this way in front of him?
I'm not a person of color. I haven't experienced racism, I've experienced discrimination.
 

sdkitty

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I'm not a person of color. I haven't experienced racism, I've experienced discrimination.
I don't understand and don't understand why this wouldn't happen in your husband's presence but if you don't want to elaborate, that is of course your prerogative.
 

TraceySH

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I definitely grew up privileged but thankfully in a huge diversified city, so even my private school had loads of other ethnicities. I, because of that, wasn't exposed to any toxic racial component either. I went to a huge undergrad school and then moved out to the east coast, where again, I studied, worked with, and was in a sorority with POC. I will ALWAYS remember the first time I was exposed to blatant racism. It was right after 9/11, I moved out of NYC 9/1 thank God, and my boyfriend at the time was Indian. Every single restaurant, EVERY SINGLE ONE, in Austin, TX refused to serve us because he "looked" muslim. Darker skinned, middle eastern, whatever. I was horrified. They hurled the most awful slurs at him/us, and called me horrible things ("traitor" ,"whore") etc because of who I was with.

I am not sure that the visceral shock of that experience could have been taught to me, despite me growing up in a very racially diversified yet un-tense environment. There's just not really a great substitute for experience, unfortunately. But with exposure he will have greater access to experiences, maybe as he heads to college?
 
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