As the nation mourns the losses of two more of our black brothers at the hands of police and the issue of racial tension again moves to the forefront in the United States, it’s important to raise awareness around a demographic that is rarely included in conversations about race: black children growing up in racial isolation.
According to Nielsen research, African American households earning more than $75,000 are the fastest growing income group in the country. That means more have the ability to provide their black children with a private or independent school education.
Experts are now seeing how children who grow up in these situations, however, are forced to develop ‘coping strategies’ in order to ‘fit in,’ that can impact everything from their relationships to their financial behavior as adults.
“One would think that it leads to success,” says Wendy Van Amson, co-founder of the Independent Schools Diversity Network.Â “But you also have to think about what’s really happening to your child…You have to find out what they’re thinking and pay attention to whether they’re being demoralized,” she adds.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within private schools, K—12 students make-up was 72% white, while just 9% black.
The Help They Need
If you have a child who is subject to racial isolation:
- Speak about this often: Let your child know that you understand that they feel different. Experts point out that they may say “everything is fine” because they’ve had to bury these feelings in order to go into these environments each day. In addition, they don’t want to disappoint you. Discuss that it’s okay to have hard feelings and that the sensations can also serve as a reminder that being different is their greatest strength–growing pains mean something is getting bigger.
- Â Focus your child’s (and your) attention on where they really come from: It too often feels like our history starts with slavery. Africans were chosen to build this country, because they have so many amazing skills and are among the best nation builders on the planet. We’re kings, queens, merchants, etc. Immerse your child in their history. Only the truth of who they really are can fill the very image gap we strive so hard to prevent in the first place. Set them free.
- Get help: One of the most important things we can do as parents is to know when our children are in situations we do not have the tools to deal with. The Independent School Diversity Network is a wonderful resource.
- Don’t ‘tragedy’ compare: Responses like “You don’t know what racism is,” or “You don’t know what tough times are,” belittle your child’s experience. Pain and rejection feel the same for all of us. We just have different storylines to get us there. Your child’s hurt doesn’t feel any less than hurt you’ve felt.
As the community continues to build wealth despite socioeconomic challenges, it is imperative that parents get the tools and education they need to help their black children thrive.