Thoughts from an ethnic minority who is not part of the Black community.
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I love how cultural awareness months are becoming mainstream and more people are recognizing and appreciating the various cultures that shaped (and continue to shape) America. February is recognized as Black History Month in the United States, and I've loved seeing the posts of cultural pride and support on various media platforms!
This month celebrates Black culture and historical figures that shaped the current rights and lifestyles of African Americans today. They're such great things to celebrate, but...I'm not Black, so I'm not sure what's the best way or the best things to teach my kids about this month since it's not our culture.
So should we even celebrate Black History Month?
Now, the bigger question is how can we celebrate Black History Month when we're not Black?
Do I take a historical approach and only talk about the facts from the past? Do I take the immersive approach and try to incorporate things like Black-owned restaurants into our weekly menu? Do I let the Black community steer my kids' education by going to curated Black History galleries and events?
Honestly, I don't know. I don't know what's going to be best for my kids or have the biggest impact on them, so I try to focus on positive cultural exposure in various forms. I use the pillars of Multicultural Parenting and try to Celebrate, Educate, & Participate. I also incorporate some of the tools that we use when discussing and celebrating our own Asian American culture.
Talk About Racism and Inclusivity
This is not a conversation that should be exclusive to Black History Month, but it is a great time to discuss it with your children. My daughters are still at the blissful age where they see similarities before they see differences. Everyone is their friend. But I know that racism and cliques exist, and they'll be faced with them sometime in their young lives.
Ruby Bridges was only six-years-old when she made history by desegregating an all-white elementary school. That's not much older than M! When sharing stories like Ruby's with my kids, I've learned from other multicultural parents that it's important to say that the issues didn't start because of race. Race wasn't the problem, racists were. The fact that Ruby was Black wasn't the problem, racists were the problem. Once we identify together that racism is the problem, my kids and I can then discuss what we can do if we're faced with a similar situation (both from a baystander perspective and someone that's being targeted).
There are so many options for illustrated biographies and board books that are written for children. Children's books are a great way to introduce historical Black figures because they take some heavy subject matter like racism, slavery, and oppression and make them easier for kids to understand.
There are a lot of picture books that are written for adults (I know that's a little confusing). They're picture books with a lot of words on each page, a limited story arch (more fact-based than plot-driven), and a vocabulary that beginner readers won't understand. These are great to read with your kids as they make way for discussion. There are also a lot of children's books that have a more fictionalized feel and follow a traditional story arch. My kids pick these books to read before bed because they're fun to read. After we've read them a few times, they're able to pick the book up on their own and tell the story just by looking at the illustrations.
Here are some children's books and a middle-grade novel that have rave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and would be wonderful home library additions for Black History Month!
(2023 Coretta Scott King Book Author Book Award and John Newbery Medal Winner)
My kids are big fans of shows, and I'm always looking for content that combines education and entertainment. Streaming services have created curated libraries for Black History Month, and we've found some good movies and shows on Netflix, Disney +, and even YouTube Kids.
While some great documentaries are being featured for Black History Month, that's not what my kids will sit through. So I try to find kids' shows that feature Black characters in leading roles. Yes, Spidey and His Amazing Friends and Ada Twist, Scientist count as great shows for them (more entertainment than education, but that's okay). They normalize and celebrate Black kids doing great things. Seeing Black leads in shows they like helps my girls realize that superheroes, humor, and intelligence aren't race-specific.
As I asked earlier, are these little things that I'm doing the best way to honor Black History Month? I'm not sure. But every effort towards positive cultural education and appreciation, whether it's our own culture or someone else's, is a step in the right direction. I know that I don't always get it right, but I'm trying, which I think is better than letting the fear of getting it wrong dictate how I parent.
And if you have any thoughts on this article or celebrating cultures you don't live, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm always trying to learn from others' experiences!
Need some ideas?
Right now our living situation is a little odd. We temporarily live in a cabin in the mountains so we can't do much to support Black communities (we don't even have a mailing address). But here are things I'd like to do once we're back in civilization:
~ Eat at an African American Restaurant
~ Learn More about Black Historical Figures
~ Find African American Printables and Crafts Online
~ Support Black Businesses
~ Visit Black History Galleries
~ Participate in Black History Month Community Events