Since being furloughed due to Covid-19, I spend my days at home with my toddler boy. Watching the multiple instances of police brutality against African American people and then the mounting brutality against the protests, I wanted to do something. But I struggled with how I could best make a difference against racially motivated police violence and racism in our country in general right now. Between the ongoing pandemic and the general chaos of the protests, I haven’t been comfortable attending with my son. Here is a list of alternate actions I have compiled that feel within reach. Long lists make me overwhelmed, so I have kept this short. I plan to pick one per day. I invite you to do the same.
1. You know the photos of kids getting tear gassed? Call the police departments for those towns and pour out your parental, protective rage. Demand that those officers be fired for excessive use of force. Your rage is powerful.
2. Sign up for emails from a group like Moms Rising that will give you weekly things to do. Often these include signing petitions and literally take less than 30 seconds!
3. Read books to your children written by people of color about their everyday life experiences and about current race issues. Counter the tendency to only cover the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Read about black scientists, inventors, and mathematicians (A Weed is a Flower, Counting on Katherine). Read about black musicians and athletes (Harlem’s Little Songbird, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, Stephen Curry: The Boy Who Never Gave Up). Read everyday happening books (The Last Stop on Market Street ). Read stories covering heavy topics like police brutality (Something Happened in Our Town). Want even more books? Find a great list here.
4. Buy your kids African American, American Indian, and Asian-looking dolls. When their dolls “play” and “go to school,” they can do so as a diverse little group. One set is available here, and Target and Walmart offer options too. Consider this even if you only have boys. My son plays with dolls. Playing with dolls is a good way to build empathy and emotional intelligence.
5. Support protests from your own home. Post signs in your windows or yard supporting Black Lives Matter and native rights and immigrant rights. If your kids are old enough, explain what you are doing and why, and have them help you make signs or make their own signs. Donate supplies to local protests (signs, bottled water, snacks, masks, etc.). If your kids like making signs, they can make extra for others to bring to protests. You can let your friends who are going know that the supplies are available for pickup. Talk to your kids about the importance of protest.
6. Write and call your elected officials. You can use CommonCause.org to find out who your representatives are and get their phone numbers and contact info. If your kids are old enough, have them write short notes as well. There is something about a kid’s plea that gets through to even crusty-hearted people.
7. Encourage your children to make friends with a diverse group of people. Do NOT do this by saying, “you should make friends with Black kids.” Instead, orchestrate their schooling and social life so that they will have lots of contact with African American, American Indian, Native American, and immigrant background children. Prioritize this over and above high prestige schools and dance classes. Check your own life too. Do you have friends who are people of color? Do you have them over to your house for visits or cookouts? Your kids will learn from your behavior.
8. Find parenting blogs and books by African American and Native American parents. Read those and seek to understand their experience and their priorities. You could start here or here or by reading the book My Brown Baby, available here.
9. Use resources like the Zinn Education Project to teach your children about racial events that are often omitted from classroom lessons, and to re-educate yourself.