I try to limit the amount the news is on in our house. Yes, it’s important to stay informed, but much of it is very dark and I’m very aware of the impact of a constant stream of negativity on our wellbeing. Chris however insists on watching the Channel 4 news at 7pm and so on the odd occasion when the girls don’t have their headphones in, they’re exposed to what’s going on in the world.
When the video showing George Floyd’s death was shown a few days ago, my immediate reaction was to shake my head at Chris and ask him to turn it down or switch over. When Kaia finally saw it, her eyes filled with tears. She came and found me and tried to voice her confusion.
My impulse was to reach out and comfort her. To remind her that not all people are like that. To point out all the good people in the world and all of those people standing up to stop events like this.
I resisted. I sat on my hands. I kept my mouth shut and I let her talk. And then I talked to her gently but without seeking to comfort her. I explained how not all people share our views. How some people grow up believing different things. How fear and power can be insidious and destructive.
I didn’t tell her to look for the good. There’s time for that later.
For now, we have to sit with the truth. We have to have the uncomfortable conversations. We need to acknowledge and own the problems and prejudices in our society.
Obviously we need to be age appropriate – but we cannot and we must not avoid the conversation altogether.
Kaia kept talking. We’ve been having this conversation all week. It will continue. She’s shared her bewilderment, grief, disgust and rage. She’s sent us links to petitions to sign. She’s got active.
She is not shying away from this conversation.
And I am phenomenally proud of her.
My father was from Pakistan. My mother is Irish. They married in the 50s and faced racism in varying degrees from all corners for many, many years. Growing up one of the few mixed race kids in my school, I was desperate to fit in – to be like the pale skinned, blue-eyed kids that were oh so popular. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like them. They were shiny and self-confident. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t.
I remember my mother sitting at dinner parties or events calling people out on their unthinking prejudiced comments. The atmosphere would grow strained. I was embarrassed. I would shift in my seat and avert my eyes. Yes these people were idiots, but why was she calling attention to it? They were nothing to us and she’d never change them anyway.
How wrong I was.
In putting their comfort first, I was allowing the prejudices I loathed in the very core of my being to continue. In avoiding my own discomfort, I was perpetuating the bigotry and bias that filled me with despair and made me question my own worth.
Now I delight in my mixed heritage. I have learnt to be happy in my own skin and to celebrate my individuality.
I want my children to live in a world that celebrates our differences. That respects and honours all people in equal measure. Where life is seen to be richer because of all the wonderfully varied backgrounds, colours, race, gender and preferences we humans bring to this melting pot we call life.
For that we need equality.
For that we need to speak out and educate.
And it starts at home.
Our children will be responsible in the world to come. Their future depends on them.
For that, they depend on us.
We need to make sure that they not only share our vision but that they recognise that others do not – and that they are confident enough in themselves and courageous enough to call out prejudice, inequality and injustice wherever it occurs.
It starts with those uncomfortable conversations.