Home Society & Culture “They Don’t Like You Because You’re Black” – Injecting Racial Poison into Children’s Minds

“They Don’t Like You Because You’re Black” – Injecting Racial Poison into Children’s Minds

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With Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire recently endorsing the idea of teaching White privilege to children, I began contemplating various incidents where children were exposed to racially charged ideas and rhetoric.

A few years ago, a video circulated widely on social media in which a mother, who appeared to be White, told her child the following: “They don’t like you; they don’t like you because you are Black.” It is probably one of the most infuriating and disheartening videos I have ever seen.

I wasn’t clear about the exact situation and location, but in the background, there was a crowd gathered for what seemed like a Trump rally. This incident happened in 2020, around the time of the November US general election. I’m unsure why the mother was there; she might have driven by and stopped to share these words with her child, or perhaps she was in a nearby car park observing the event from a distance.

As the woman uttered these words to her daughter, the child began to wail and hit her mother – clear evidence of the distressing impact such speech could have on a child. I couldn’t understand why someone would sow such confusion and cultivate feelings of hatred, both internally and potentially towards others, in a young mind. How could the charged political climate overshadow the responsibility of nurturing a young life?

It’s truly unfortunate how many Black children, and children in general, often end up exposed to negative and fear-driven messages. Despite their apparent good intentions, parents, guardians, and even teachers sometimes unknowingly fill their minds with harmful or unhelpful ideas under the guise of ‘being honest’ or ‘preparing them for the real world.

Instead of helping the child, this can alter how they perceive themselves and the world around them. As conservative commentator and author Jason Riley puts it in his 2016 book, Please Stop Helping Us, “At what point does the helping start hurting?”

The author, Khama Ennis, once contributed to the Washington Post with an article that was titled, “In Black families like mine, the race talk comes early, and it’s painful. It’s also not optional.”

I don’t support introducing racial concepts to children; however, if someone feels the need to discuss the complexities of race with their child, it certainly doesn’t have to be a painful or distressing experience. If a parent experiences psychological pain while engaging in these discussions, it often indicates that they are navigating the subject matter through the lens of irrationality and heightened emotions. This means that they might not be adequately prepared or equipped to have this conversation with their child.

If the emotional burden becomes overwhelming for the parent, it would be advisable for them to take a step back from the discussion. Proceeding without adequate mental and emotional preparation may inadvertently cause more harm than good to the child’s understanding and perspective.

In her piece for the Washington Post, she also mentioned that she had to have the “race talk” with her two daughters, ages 5 and 7, because she was concerned about the country’s future in the aftermath of the 2016 election. In addition to teaching them about different kinds of racial slurs, she also informed them about the 2020 George Floyd murder, which she admitted made her older daughter cry. She believed that it was an important conversation to have because the girls needed to understand their surroundings.

If these conversations elicit a strong negative reaction from the child and the parent proceeds to implant such rhetoric anyway, one has to ask whether the parent is centering themselves or the child. Are they more invested in imposing their personal beliefs, fears, and biases on their child than in equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of a demanding and uncertain world effectively? If the former is true, then the parent is acting in a selfish manner and not prioritising the needs and well-being of the child, even if they believe otherwise.

These types of conversations need not be painful; they can be constructive and enlightening exchanges if handled thoughtfully and wisely.

Telling your child that the world will not like or accept them because of a particular characteristic, even if that trait is perceived as a disadvantage, is the surest way to subject that child to a host of inner and outer issues.  Your parents and your home should be the primary sources of safety, solace, confidence, and acceptance. If parents or guardians, influenced by their own political biases, compromise these foundational pillars in any way, they should be held responsible for any negative circumstances their child faces, rather than attributing blame to society or “the system”.

Ada Akpala is the senior content officer of The Equiano Project.


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