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Captivating Kids Stories To Recognize Privilege
[Featured Image Description: Book cover for ‘Lila and the Crow’]
Every day, I see comments from friends, family, and even readers like this:
“I’m waffling between educating my white kids about all the terrible things that happen to children of color and protecting them from the truth. They’re so young. I don’t want them to be traumatized.”
This choice about what to tell our kids and when – is a privilege.
Those of us with daughters, children of color, and children with disabilitiess have no choice but to teach our children about discrimination and violence – so they can survive.
My kid is prone to meltdowns when he’s overwhelmed. Now that he’s in kindergarten, I worry every day he’ll be expelled, arrested, or killed by police.
I worry, because I know how overwhelmed, understaffed schools deal with ‘out of control’ kids. It doesn’t matter if a meltdown harms no one but himself. It doesn’t matter that disabled people are way, way, way, WAY more likely to be victims than aggressors.
Don’t you dare let that tiny voice in your head derail this with a ‘Actually, not all cops.‘
FOCUS. Our babies are in danger.
So I don’t have a choice about whether or not I teach my child about police brutality, and how vital it is that he hold himself together at story-time. I want him to survive more than I want him to live without fear and trauma.
All this fear I live with – and my kid is white as paper. Our school district is within the top 20 best districts in the country and I love our teacher and principal. But all it takes is one bad classroom meltdown.
The only thing that keeps me from losing my goddamn mind is that he has light skin and goes to school in a wealthy community, so maybe, maybe an officer will blink twice before pulling out a taser. I hold tight to this luck, and it makes me sick knowing most don’t have this unearned armor.
You might also like: Ending Police Brutality Family Action Toolkit
Choosing not to discuss hard topics is a privilege.
If your child is in preschool, they are old enough to start learning how they benefit from our kyriarchy so they can dismantle it.
When marginalized communities tell you to be an accomplice, to #DoTheWork, that #SilenceIsViolence, this is what they are talking about.
Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s get our children uncomfortable. Let’s start those difficult conversations.
Choose a story start talking. You don’t have to have all the answers. This doesn’t have to be traumatizing.
You do have to having tough conversations with your kids.
Remaining silent is an act of supremacy
The following stories help children understand what it feels like to face bias and discrimination in daily life.
These are not books that normalize diversity. Normalizing minority protagonists is super important – but reading ONLY feel-good books in an unrealistic bubble of acceptance contributes to a color-blind fallacy that helps the privileged pretend discrimination is over. (Re: “We have a black president now! Racism is over!“)
Racism isn’t over. Slapping a #BlackLivesMatter sign in your front yard is not the end of your career fighting for equality.
Do the work – every week, read one book
Even the busiest of us can manage that. Let’s get on with it.
Raising Luminaries & Books For Littles (BFL) is free and accessible for readers who can’t afford a paywall. Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with the BFL statement of accountability. If you’re pairing this advice with a trip to the library (please do!), you can also support BFL on Patreon.
Captioned age ranges are for when my sons got ‘the gist’ of the story with discussion & alternative readings – most contain text for much older ages.
Understand your economic privilege
This one is easy. I think we can all agree that poverty is bad. No child will be traumatized by the idea of not having a bike or donating a dinner to a family. So if you’re new to this, let’s start here.
*Caveat on A Bike Like Sergio’s Beverly Slapin from De Colores gives us valuable insight on the problematic racial coding in A Bike Like Sergio’s as ambiguously Latinx. I’m including it here because this story does validate the conundrum of selfishness, honesty, and integrity many of us wrestle with, and it was an accurate reflection of my own experience. Find an in-depth analysis and explanation of how to handle topics like this in our accomplice community’s guide for parents & educators: Smashing Wealth Inequality .
You might also like: Galvanizing Kids Books About Poverty That Inspire Kids To Give Back
Understand your masculine privilege
For every girl who’s been told she’s too small, too weak, to flighty, and too delicate – there’s a ‘I was just joking, jeez’ bro interrupting her every move. Make sure your boys don’t grow up to be those bros.
You might also like: How To Get White Boys To Listen To Women Of Color
Understand your white privilege
Note for (wealthy, white) critics of ‘Lila and the Crow,’ claiming all kids have adults they can turn to in a bullying situation, and how unrealistic this story is.
Lila is a modern-day example of classroom bigotry, and the racism might seem unrealistically blatant. Buuut it’s completely accurate, and when girls of color go to authority about situations like this, we get ignored.
It’s not okay that Lila’s bullies were never held accountable, and she shouldn’t have had to adjust to withstand their attacks on her own. BUT THIS IS NOT A FAIRY-TALE, this is a story about the experience of girls of color, and how they might empowerment and pride despite haters. This was my exact experience facing a 6yo motherland-hailing nazi bullies in elementary school and it validates the experience of girls of color who don’t have adults to step in and fix things.
You might also like: Stop Lying To Your Kids About White Supremacy
Understand your non-disabled privilege
Beyond the disability inspiration porn of courageous wheelchair users, insightful blind besties and powerful Deaf protagonists (love them, but they’re common and you can find those anywhere), and barfy books that center on non-disabled* friends and seeing-eye dogs instead of actually disabled people, these stories portray an inclusive model for invisible disabilities that are only challenging in the context of our culture.
Also yes, I see how white these are. I’m still searching for a book that centers a disabled protagonist of color.
*Edited to add: You can catch my explanation in the comments as to why, as a disabled woman, I use shameless identity-first language.
You might also like: Empowering Kids Books About Disability
Understand your cisgender privilege
Your child will have (or be!) a trans friend, classmate, co-worker, or spouse one day. Get in front of the bigotry other kids and daycare providers are filling them with before they say something hurtful to a non-binary, trans, or gender-fluid kid. ASAP.
You might also like: Teaching Kids About The Gender Spectrum
Understand your heteronormative privilege
I’m grateful for all the books coming out featuring gay parents. But also I’m getting kind of sick of seeing only gay adults – as if kids are heterosexual by default and flip over somewhere in their mid-20’s. Read more books featuring gay young people (or bunnies)!
You might also like: Books about Sexuality, Masturbation & Healthy Boundaries
Understand your body size privilege
Little people are people. Fat people are people. Average people are people. (And I know dinosaurs are not people, but the story of accommodating size rather than contorting is worth it). All people (and dinosaurs) deserve to feel comfortable and welcome on earth.
If you’re feelin’ kinda huffy and want to email me to say it’s DANGEROUS to read books with fat protagonists without pointing out how they should diet/die/wallow in pity – NOPE. SHUT MOUTH. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.
Fat people are people – worthy, lovely, and deserving of happiness and respect exactly the way they are. Full stop.
You might also like: Adipositive Stories Championing Fat Liberation
Understand your freedom from religious persecution privilege
You might also like: The Sikh Identity – One Mother’s Quest To Fight Erasure & Bigotry With Books
Understand your colonist privilege
You might also like: Decolonizing Thanksgiving Is An Oxymoron – Dismantling The Myth Of The First Thanksgiving
Understand safe citizenship privilege
You might also like: Endurance, Tenacity, and Wits – Why Irish Americans Must Advocate For Refugees & Black Lives
Understand your documented citizenship privilege
You might also like: Immigrants Belong Here – Books To Help Kids Advocate For Human Rights
Understand your language & cultural fluency privilege
You might also like: Stereotype-Free Kids Stories Celebrating The Lunar New Year
Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Read One Book
We can do this. SO EASY, right? Go to the library. It costs nothing to fight hate.
Meanwhile, advocate for increased public education funding – and as a temporary band-aid: join me in supporting local under-funded schools to support educators in building school libraries and providing materials for under-privileged students through Donors Choose.