Anti-racism is for everyone. Let's have the conversation with all our children

Published on: 14 January 2020 Author: Tiffany Jewell

When Tiffany Jewell experienced racism as a child, she didn't know what to do or say. Now she wants to empower other children about the history of racism and resistance, so they can better speak out against injustice.

Illustrated by Aurelia Durand, from This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

When I was young, I felt powerless. When it came to speaking up against injustice, I didn’t know what to do or how to take action. I could see it [racism and injustice], even identify it, but I didn’t have the language to talk about it and I definitely did not know what to do. I often relied on the adults around me to guide me and speak for me. I didn’t feel empowered to stand up against racism and oppression.

Relying on the adults wasn’t always a possibility, and isn’t for many children and young folks. When I was nine years old, I had a teacher who was racist and awful to my classmates and peers with darker skin than my own. While her classroom looked inviting, she was not. She created a hostile (unsafe to learn) environment and I still reflect on it today as it greatly shaped my understanding of racism in education [and all institutions].

I’m still appalled that she was our teacher and entrusted with our learning and safety. I’m now an educator myself and frequently remind myself that there are undoubtedly still many, many teachers like her in schools today.

Move us forward to justice

I wrote This Book Is Anti-Racist for everyone. It's the book I wish I'd had when I was nine years old. I wrote it for my classmates in third grade. I wrote it for all my former students, who always want to know more, and want to know that, even though they’re young, they have the agency to make positive and impactful change in our world. And it’s the book I want my children to read.

This Book Is Anti-Racist is not just a book for young folks, though –  it’s for parents, caregivers, families, and for educators and administrators. I wrote it for all the students and children who live in our racialised society (which is everywhere). It is a book for our ancestors and for our futures. And, it’s for all the young BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), like Stephen Lawrence, who suffer the consequences of systemic racism and violence and should not be simply memorialised in our hashtags and remembered on their death days.

My hope is that this book will open up doors for a deeper understanding of our collective history of racism. It is a global issue and impacts us all every single day. Everyone who reads this will have the opportunity to reflect, grow, and move towards working in solidarity with others. Readers are encouraged to build their anti-racist capacity and create action that disrupts racism. I hope every reader will see themselves in this book and be moved to work towards liberation.

The young folks I work with on a daily basis are craving to not only understand who they are, but know why our society is the way it currently is. They have deep, deep questions about injustice and can identify it immediately. They are also incredible problem solvers and have the ability to envision a path of resistance, disruption, and move us forward to justice.

I am excited for many young folks to have This Book Is Anti-Racist in their hands. It is a new tool that will support their growth towards our collective freedom and provide them with concrete action to continue on with the work of dismantling white supremacy. They won’t have to wait for us, the adults, to get over our fears and discomfort of talking about and standing up against racism. 

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Look inside the book

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Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
Extract from This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell

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'We should not be and cannot be silent'

I am raising two white presenting cisgender boys in the United States. It is extremely important and vital that they have the tools necessary to identify race, understand what it is they are witnessing, experiencing, being a party to, and to know who they are accountable to when taking action. My hope is that my own children will be aware of their biases and not have the same prejudices as some of their white classmates and peers. They need to understand racism is built into everything we do. My children will have a much easier time in life than their darker friends. If my partner and I don’t talk about this with them now, then we are feeding into the racist system we live in. We should not be and cannot be silent. Not addressing racism perpetuates racism.

Talking with children about racism is uncomfortable and messy. Acknowledging that and moving into the daily practice of building your anti-racist lens with your children (and the children you may work with) is a way we can disrupt the ease of complicity.

Listen to children. Talk with them about racism. Answer their questions honestly and admit when you don’t have an answer. Point out moments when they have more agency because of their skin colour, socio-economic status, gender expression, etc. Build an anti-racist book collection for your family and commit to reading works from diverse authors. Anti-racism is for everyone.

Anti-racism is always building and developing one’s consciousness of injustice and oppression. It’s seeking truth and growing with that knowledge. It’s actively defying racism, white supremacist culture, and the status quo that have been established by the dominant culture for so long. It is not achieved by taking a one-day training or even a semester-long course. It is lifelong work. Anti-racism is how we exist in community (small and large) that truly honours everyone. It allows us to understand and reckon with our past so we can build a just future for ourselves and repair the damage that has been done.

Anti-racism is how we regain our humanity.

Tiffany Jewell is an educator and author of This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work.


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