To the White Stepfamily
Whether or not it always feels like it, as a stepmother you are an influential figure in your step-children’s lives. Raising anti-racist children is therefore as much our job as it is the job of their parents.
You might currently be practicing a level of disengagement, but this is one of those topics that you should still lean into regardless. This is especially true if your stepchildren aren’t receiving anti-racist education or sentiment elsewhere.
The following are some small suggested starting steps for your White stepfamily in the ongoing conversation about racial inequality and bias. This post focuses in the main on Black culture, but much of this can and should lead to discussions around racism in the broader sense too.
Racial Bias in Babies and Small Children
There is evidence that small babies develop a positive bias towards faces of the same colour as their parents from as early as six months old. If they’re only surrounded by people of the same colour, it makes sense that this unconscious bias might become engrained despite a parent’s best intentions.
The Power of Stories
Start filling your bookshelf with protagonists of a different colour to your own, and stories originating from other cultures.
- Take a look at Stilettos’ Resources section for some suggestions.
- Tamarind has been championing diversity in children’s publishing for decades, and their website includes suggested books and reading lists.
- The Instagram account @diverse_kids_books has loads of options, and gives you an idea of what’s inside each book and what the stories are about.
- See also Common Sense Media’s list of award winning African American Books.
If your little one is big into Disney, check that their repertoire doesn’t only contain the usual White suspects. The first (and at the time of writing, only) Black princess, Tiana, was created in 2009. Experiment with showing your child these images from CreativeSoul, which reimagine Disney princesses as Black. It may well spark a conversation with your youngster about why we want to see other races in our favourite fairy stories.
Look At Your Craft Supplies
Does your crayon collection still only contain the one “skin” colour? Doesn’t it seem completely bonkers that this was ever the case? Crayola’s skin tones are the ones to go for. They also do the same for pencils and felt tips.
Diverse Dolls and Toys
- If you’re in the States, these dolls from Black-owned business Harperiman are absolutely gorgeous. Sadly it doesn’t look like they ship to the UK at the moment.
- Just Like Me Toys are available in the UK, and is also a Black-founded small business. They have a good range of diverse dolls (rag dolls and anatomically correct) and accessories.
- Cuddle and Kind, a personal favourite of mine, has a diverse mermaid series. Plus you have the added benefit of supporting a child in need at the same time, as each purchase provides meals to children through their partner charities WE, the Children’s Hunger Fund, the CHF Mercy Network and Breakfast Club of Canada.
- Babipur, the toy shop with a focus on free trade and organic products, stocks wooden figure family sets with a range of skin tones.
- Puzzle Huddle has a lovely range of puzzles for all ages depicting Black characters. The business is Black-owned and, although US based, also ships to the UK.
Older Children, Teenagers and Young Adults
Conversation and experiences are more likely to have an impact on older children and teenagers than shelling out on things. It might be that your stepchildren are pretty clued up on the #blacklivesmatter movement, in which case they might be able to teach you a thing or two. Ask them, you may be surprised!
If, however, your stepchildren aren’t as clued up as you’d hoped, or they’ve fundamentally misunderstood an aspect of the movement (e.g. “all lives matter“), you could try introducing a relevant film or TV series into movie night, or having a podcast on in the car at pick-up.
Of course, even if your stepchildren are teenage (or even adult) activists, continuing the conversation at home remains essential. If nothing else, it will test your own preconceptions and unknown bias, as well as connecting with your stepchildren on a hugely important topic.
Film and TV
Stepmom Social Club posted a very comprehensive list of resources back in May, which includes a list of TV suggestions.
Some of my own favourites are below. These include biographical film as well as fictional, and all have Black and minority issues at their heart:
- Harriet (Film – 12A)
- The Butler (Film – 12A)
- Belle (Film – 12A)
- Moonlight (Film – 15)
- Dear White People (Netflix series – 15) – bear in mind that there are some fairly graphic sex scenes, which may produce delightfully intense mortification in your stepchildren whilst you’re in the room.
- Power (Netflix series – 18) – did anyone else wonder what 50 Cent had been up to? One for the young adults.
- Orange is the New Black (Netflix series – 18) – one for the young adults.
For a full list of African American Cinema which will appeal to older children, see here from The Voice of Black Cincinatti.
Books for Older Children and Teenagers
As above (“The Power of Stories”), please see:
- Stilletos’ Resources;
- Tamarind; and
- Common Sense Media’s list of award winning African American Books, which can all assist.
It’s an Ongoing Journey For All Of Us
And it’s as relevant in the UK as it is in the US. The worst thing we can do now is lose momentum, and it’s up to all of us as integral cogs in our families to keep the conversation going.
We must also remember that it’s one thing to not be racist, but to be anti-racist takes action and an appetite to question the status-quo. All of the above ideas should be used as a launchpad for discussing race and racism with our children. By refusing to be passive we can do our bit in raising anti-racist children.