Being An Ally Starts at Home: 3 Ways to Start Now

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baby looking through booksI haven’t written a lot in the last few weeks. I’ve been trying to do my part by hitting pause and absorbing the climate of events. Actively listening to the black voices that need to be heard is essential right now for all of us. Hearing people speak about their oppression and trying to understand the challenges and fears of navigating their identities has been emotional for me. I wanted to take the time to reflect and consider how I could be a better ally too. Something resonated with me recently about the biggest contributions you can make for real change is the children you raise and raising them without prejudice.

I am a first-generation Portuguese American. Both my maternal grandparents were born in Portugal and my mother was born and raised in Venezuela. Being raised in a trilingual mixed-race household, race and diversity played an integral role in our lives. Conversations on race were always discussed openly. It was important for me to understand from a young age that we were not all alike. I learned early on that although we should all be equals in this world, we are not always treated so because of race. These conversations on race and discrimination are crucial for us to have as families. This is the necessary work we as parents need to do in order to raise good humans. I may only have a baby, but I still want to do my part. Here is how our family is approaching the topic and taking action to be an ally.

Getting a Head Start on the Topic

It’s our responsibility to make our children feel safe, loved, and valued. It’s also our responsibility to educate our children, help them build character and a baseline for morality. We can’t tip-toe around the reality of what is still happening surrounding race and discrimination. No longer is it okay to remain silent in our discussions in the hope that avoiding it altogether will make the problem go away. As our children’s greatest influencers, it’s our job to teach through our actions and discussions. We can teach them to be an ally through our own example.

With a baby, conversations are one-sided right now, but it’s never too early to start addressing these uncomfortable topics. This is one of the most instrumental times in her life. She is absorbing everything we say and do. I have an opportunity right now to practice having these difficult conversations in an open and honest manner without questions. But one day, she will have questions, and I want to be there ready to answer them honestly and knowledgeably.

Normalizing Nonwhite Ethnicities in Our Home

Reading is big in our household and with a baby, visuals are significant to her learning and development. I often travel and make it a point to always buy a children’s book that’s representative of that country’s culture. We do own a few books on black heroes and heroines throughout history, but honestly, it’s not enough. She needs more books with black characters at the center of their stories. A couple of books isn’t going to cut it anymore. We’ve recently ordered Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment and Sulwe to add to her collection and plan on adding to it regularly. I’ve also started to add a few children’s books that address racism and protests to prepare for that conversation in the coming years. I’ve found a great list of resources here that I’ve been looking into.

If I’m to teach through my actions, if I’m to be an ally, I need to hold myself accountable too. I realized that my own bookshelf was a poor reflection of what I want for my daughter. For me to learn more about the history of racial injustice so that I can contribute from a place of knowledge and fight racist practices, it’s essential for me to research and read too. Recently, I was personally recommended The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness as a start to better understand racism.

Diversifying our Circles

To be frank, our environments are not as ethnically diverse as they should be. From our daycare, to swim lessons, to playdates. Shame on me, especially with a mixed-race background, for not addressing this sooner.  It’s my duty as a parent to lay the positive groundwork and cultivate relationships for my child, especially at this age. I fully admit we need more exposure to multiculturalism to help engrain diversity into my daughter’s worldview.  We’re taking a closer look at how we can shift our environments to be more inclusive and making sure the families involved paint a colorful picture of diversity. We’re also planning on attending cultural activities for more exposure for our family.

As a family, in order to be an ally, we need to expand our social circles to include people and families of different ethnicities. We want to show our daughter that we value people from all ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds. That we consider them all worthy of our friendship, love, and social association.

Parenting is hard, but not as hard as having to endure racism. We’ve stayed quiet for too long. How can we teach, if we don’t learn? How can we raise good humans if we as parents cower in the face of adversity? I know I personally have a lot more reading, listening, and general work to do as a family. We need to keep this conversation going and actively do better so we can be better at fighting for change. We cannot wait to act, and we all need to be a part of the change is some positive way.

 

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Shannon is a type a-event planner who loves organizing, ice vanilla coffees, and is never without a vacuum in hand. As a new mom, she never quite planned for the whirlwind of motherhood nor the copious amounts of laundry that came with it but is relishing in the new moments with her almost one-year-old baby girl Fira and is getting a little shut-eye whenever she can. As a New England native, Shannon grew up traveling the coast as well as internationally and started exploring the world from a young age with her family. This passion and tradition drove her to make her love of travel and organizing an everyday gig and currently plans corporate events all around the world. Currently, Shannon is managing her extensive work travel schedule (sometimes traveling with a baby in tow), the needs of a dance-loving, Elmo obsessed baby and marriage. When Outside of her 9 to 5, this working mama stays busy with reading, gardening, riding bikes, and hiking with her baby, husband, and two rescue Westie mixes, Clover and Ghost in Warwick, RI.