My 4-year old, Huddy, recently discovered some TinTin comics my husband had as a child, and he immediately loved them because the story is basically told through pictures and he can “read” them on his own without an adult. But the other night he asked me to read one to him, and I was shocked to discover how racist and offensive they are. I immediately panicked. While the TinTin comics are now in the trash, it left me with so many questions about how to talk to Huddy in a way he will understand about how books can be racist, why we’re not reading them anymore and what can we do to actively work against racism in the world. This recent moment made me really grateful for Jasmine and the work that she does to help parents like me navigate these conversations with our kids.
Watch + Listen to the whole conversation:
When Jasmine was pregnant with her first child, she dove into anti-racism research and realized that there was a large divide between the world of academia and practical application. Jasmine launched the podcast First Name Basis to provide resources and tips for families. Her resources help parents and children engage in developmentally appropriate conversations about race, religion, and differences to help parents raise the next generation to be more anti-racist.
What is the meaning of the name of your podcast, First Name Basis?
I came up with the name First Name Basis, because when I was learning about implicit biases, one of the biggest things that people have found in their research is that when you get on a first name basis with someone, your biases against that community are really dismantled. And it’s not just- Oh, I know you, I know your name. It’s- I know you, I know your family, I care about your situation. I’m empathetic towards the challenges that are facing you and celebrate joys with you. I feel like I have a responsibility here. So that’s why I started First Name Basis. We really exist to give parents the anti-racist tools that they need to raise kids so that society will be more equitable and fair for everybody.
What advice do you have for parents who want to navigate conversations about race and racism but they don’t know where to begin?
The first thing that I would think about is your environment. You want to create an environment that is inviting questions. Do you have people on your bookshelf and TV who look different from you? Do you take them to events, cultural events, and museums where they can ask questions about the people around them? You want to create environments where your kids can see differences so that you can have natural conversations about it.
And the second biggest thing that I would say when it comes to younger kids is just listen to their questions. Your kids will start asking questions. They might point to a person in a grocery store and say- Why is that man all covered in black paint?- You’ll have moments where you might feel really embarrassed, but if you tell your kids not to ask questions like that it actually sends the wrong message to them. It’s not that their questions will stop coming, it’s just that they will stop asking you the questions.
So it’s important to be ready for those conversations and questions so that you can respond by saying- that person has more melanin than we do. The amount of melanin in your skin determines whether you skin is lighter or darker.
But please don’t feel like you need to know the answer to everything. If you don’t know the answer, instead you can just validate your child by saying- That is such a good question. I’m not sure, but let’s learn about it together. So it’s just about understanding that you as the parent have the tools. When you take time to answer your child’s questions, you’re encouraging your child to continue to ask questions.
How do you take some of the really challenging aspects of our society like racism or police brutality and make them developmentally appropriate for young kids?
My advice when talking about current events is first to ask your child what they have heard about a particular event or topic. That way you can dispel any confusion or misinformation. Then I would stick to the facts. When we think about older kids, we can give them a lot more details and help them understand the nuance. But when we’re thinking about our younger kids, we just want them to understand that something bad happened in our community. And that’s why there are a lot of people who are filling the streets and standing up against this injustice.
When we’re talking to little kids obviously they don’t understand the word injustice. Instead, focus on fairness because kids totally understand fairness.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.
Read more from Bridget, follow her on IG, and check out her new series, Work Like a Mother.