The day after the election, my daughter was apprehensive about going to school. In the weeks before the election, she’d been told that Mexicans like herself — she’s Mexican-American and no one in her family except maybe her father speaks Spanish — were only fit to pick vegetables and that she’d better get used to “Trump Nation.” No wonder she didn’t feel like going to school last Wednesday.
I made her go to school anyhow — armed with a little knowledge and a lot of heart.
Political and cultural bullying isn’t all that different from run-of-the-mill bullying — but it helped to have some of the facts. Facts, of course, have been in short supply in recent months, but that’s no reason not to have them. Also, empathy. Even if you can’t instill empathy in other children, it’s a good thing for your kids to have it. Here's how to help them through this.
1. Anticipate What the Issue Might Be
As my daughter has had run-ins with this one particular kid before, we know this girl always says a variation of the same racist themes. So my daughter needs to call out the racism, and refuse to let racism be normalized. If children can do this on their level, then maybe it might rub off on adults.
2. Show Them That Knowledge Is Power
The girl who usually starts things with my kid belittles Mexican labor. She often says things like “you people are only good for working in fields.” At first, my daughter was baffled by the taunts so she couldn’t reply. I reminded her that our family has professors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, and various creative and small business people. But I also reminded her that no one’s work should ever be demonized. There’s nothing wrong with being a laborer.
3. Find Common Ground
Maybe there is something going on in the bullying racist kid’s life that we don’t know about that’s causing this reaction. Is there a way to find anything similar to help the bully know that they share things in common?
4. Listen to Your Kid
Don’t hyperbolize the fears that your kid is already feeling. But at the same time, don’t minimize what might be truly a horrible experience and life-changing coming-of-age experience. Parents can go both ways. Too much and kids might not recover — too little and it opens the door to normalizing bad behavior.
5. Talk to Kids About Your Own Experience With Racism
This is the time to tell them about what you went through — maybe not all of it, but something so that they know this is sadly something that often happens to children of color at one time or another.
All of this is has to do with what age they are, what maturity level they are at, and what they can handle. But it’s vital that they do respond and don’t let the normalization of racism take place on their backs.