Some parents might think that the best way to raise kids is to let them view life through a rosy kaleidoscope.
However, this parenting approach will create a distorted interpretation of the world, which makes children more likely to be shocked when they first encounter the harsh reality.
So what can you do to make sure your child’s education is well-rounded?
Let’s start by teaching them about the lesser-known topics, like black history.
1. Explain the concept of black history and why it is necessary to know about it
For most kids, the idea of history alone is vague, let alone black history.
This is the reason why you need to approach this topic with ease so that your child does not feel overwhelmed.
You can start by saying: “Each February in the USA, they have a 28-day celebration called Black History Month. Do you know why?”
Once you have piqued kids’ curiosity, let’s move on by diving a bit deeper into what black history is.
To put in kid-friendly terms, black history documents the lives of black people from the past to the present.
Providing your kids are black, then fine, it makes sense that they should know about their own people.
But what if your kids are not colored people?
Children may ask why they need to study all this thing if it does not seem to be relative.
You can answer them by saying: “There are millions of people living on Earth, and they have different skin tones like black, yellow, white, etc. For some reason, black people used to be treated badly in the past, and now, they still face many prejudices and challenges from society.”
Teaching black history is teaching kids about racial inclusivity, about how we should not judge each other based on their skin color, but rather their personalities.
While not all kids understand the concept right away, it matters that you slowly show them what is right and what is wrong when approaching the racial issue.
2. Guide kids through the most distinctive events of black history
Nothing helps kids understand black history better than the milestones.
There are certain moments that mark a crucial turn for black people, and you can make certain adjustments when telling the story so that kids do not get confused.
- 1619: White people started enslaving black people. The white people were bad people, who wanted more goods and money. Because they had guns and other weapons superior to those of black people, white people traveled to Africa – home to black people – and quickly forced these poor men and women to go to North America. Black people were enslaved.
- 1831: Abolitionism surfaced. Slowly, some white people realized that slavery was morally unacceptable, so they began to fight for black people. At the same time, black people became more vocal and active in claiming their rights.
- The mid-1800s: The Underground Railroad. As there were more and more slaves trying to escape from their cruel bosses, both black people and the sympathetic joined efforts to build a network of safe houses and secret roads. This system helped more than 100000 slaves to travel to Canada and other non-slavery states in America.
- 1863: Slavery was officially dismissed. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared that slavery now became illegal. For the first time, in the eye of the law, black people in America were considered humans rather than properties.
- 1909: The NAACP. Stood for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP was the first organization founded by black people to serve black people’s interests.
- 1955: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Sparked by Rosa Parks and led Martin Luther King, this movement aimed at boycotting the buses requiring black people to sit at the back.
- 1963: “I have a dream” speech. At the biggest march for racial equality, Martin Luther King delivered his inspiring speech, which started to call for more attention towards racial equality.
- 1964: The Civil Rights Act. Commonly known as Title VII, this federal law banned racial discrimination at the workplace.
- 2008: The first black President of the United States. After years of fighting for recognition, 2008 marked a historic moment when Barack Obama – a black man – was elected for President. However, this did not mean that racism against black people stopped.
This timeline can be pretty boring, and most kids cannot take in that much information in a day or two.
Thus, split your lessons. Teach them one by one, so children can gradually develop an understanding of all the events surrounding black people.
To make it more approachable, you can take advantage of photos, footage, and illustrative arts depicting black history.
Not only will your lessons be more visually stimulating, but they will also lift off the burden of “learning duty” and let your kids know both of you are having fun together.
3. Introduce the most well known black figures.
Learning about black history will be easier when kids can associate lessons with real-life people.
To start with, you can introduce contemporary figures.
People like President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, golf player Tiger Woods, actor Will Smith, model Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks,… are the names that your kids might have heard of.
But do not stop at the names only.
Let children know more about these people.
What makes them famous? What are their legacies? What have they done to the community?
And how do they embrace their blackness?
It matters that your kids are exposed to successful black celebrities from an early age.
Then, let’s travel back in time and explore the most classic black figures.
Turn on the “I have a dream” speech and tell your kids the story of Martin Luther King.
Take them on a bus ride and explain how Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat for a white man, despite the threat from the police.
Open the TV and let them see the wit and charm of Oprah Winfrey, a black woman who overcame multiple difficulties and became a media superstar.
Organize a star-gazing night and marvel your kids with the life of Katherine Johnson, the prominent NASA mathematician whose works help to materialize the very first space flights.
Show your kids that no matter when or where, black people were, and still are, fighting for their success.
4. Buy comics and books that reflect racial inclusivity and diversity.
Besides the mainstream media, books are also an important outlet for kids to learn about black history.
If your kids are under 10, we recommend that you read them illustrative books, such as:
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
- Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
- You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson.
- This Jazz Man.
- I Am Harriet Tubman.
- A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
Once your kids are a bit older, introduce them to more insightful books:
- The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA
- Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad.
- The hate u give.
- We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders.
- Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.
- Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library.
In a world where the media mainly focuses on white people, representation for black people matters.
This is why you have to show your kids there are books revolving around the black community.
Sometimes, all the lessons you try to teach can easily enter a kid’s head through a good read.
5. Do not avoid answering questions about race and its related issues.
When first encountered with black history lessons, children may come up with many questions.
“Why were the white people so mean to black people?”
“Why did the black people give in so easily? Shouldn’t they have fought against being removed from Africa?”
“Why do many people think black people are not as good as others?”
Some parents may shy away from answering these questions due to their sensitivity and complexity.
However, it is not how your kids learn.
Satisfy their curiosity with carefully worded answers.
For example, you may say: “The white people had larger houses, bigger castles, and more powerful weapons. So they thought they were the best of everyone, and that black people must serve them.”
It is an easy way to interpret the colonialism to your kids.
Or, you can show kids visual features that differentiate a black from a white person, like full lips, or braided hair.
Then, let them know that sometimes people fear what does not look like themselves.
To oppress that fear, some people choose the extreme way by belittling others.
Thus, you can explain to your children why racism is still a problem in modern society.
Teaching about black history is not an easy task.
In fact, asking your kids to appreciate and respect the difference is one of the hardest lessons.
But when you choose to teach children black history, you also choose to teach them to be fierce, to be courageous, and to be sympathetic.