My tactic for educating myself has been through nightly readings with my 4-year-old kiddo. We've talked about really heavy topics: slavery, state-sanctioned violence, civil rights violations, and more. Although no one has said this to me aloud, I can imagine naysayers tsk-tsking the appropriateness of addressing such topics with a small child. My retort is that the topics my daughter and I discuss have happened literally to millions of children throughout time. In fact, they are still happening. No child ever deserved to have slavery, state-sanctioned violence, civil rights violations, and more to be part of their personal narrative. And what's more, our unwillingness to examine such atrocities doesn't erase them. Silence doesn't make the hurt stop.
Since my kiddo is only 4 years old, she's really not understanding much of what we read. Still, every night we discover another black woman hero - someone who fought on the side of equality and inclusion, even in the face of significant personal dangers. And each night when I ask the kiddo what she thinks, she more or less tells me that the people we read about are kind and that they tried to help other people. She usually adds that they were awesome or cool too, 'cause she's enthusiastic like that.
Even though the names Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, and Clara McBride Hale are unlikely to stick in her mind (for now), I know that at the end of the month, four facts will linger: 1) the people we read about had/have black skin; 2) they were/are women; 3) they help other people; and 4) they are heroes. Sure, I can't dismantle white privilege and institutional racism with a month-long history lesson. But at least I can parent by reframing the narrative around black women in our home. If my white daughter sees black women as kind and brave and heroic, that is undeniably a good thing.