Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

A Parent’s Response to Racism and Protests

Scott Spencer, MD, MPH
June 06, 2020 12:00AM

I talked to my children about racism tonight.  Well, at least I tried to. It felt urgent – George Floyd was murdered, protests are occurring and national conversations are happening about injustice.   My angst was strong. The status quo cannot continue.  Black lives matter, and societal change needs to happen.  

Coming home from work, I was ready to talk.  But were my kids?  Well, my 9 year-old son listened politely but he had other things on his mind.  So after a few minutes, he reminded me his friend down the street had asked him to play. I could sense that for him, it wasn’t the right time.  No reason for me to be upset.  My 6 year-old daughter listened a little better and was engaged!  As I tried my best to explain in an age-appropriate way why George Floyd was killed, she said, “Oh yeah, and Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t treated fairly either because of his skin color.”  I was taken aback. My daughter had been paying attention.  I realized I wasn’t starting from scratch.  But after 5 more minutes of talking, she was ready for something new…on to climbing on daddy’s back.  Well, it was a start.  

It is quite obvious that helping children combat racism is not something that can be accomplished in one talk.  It is a lifelong conversation.  And you probably agree that it shouldn’t take brutal killings and protests to prompt these conversations, but now is an important time to make sure our children know what is going on.  For resources on how to start this difficult conversation, our friends at the Portland Children’s Museum forwarded this comprehensive link from the Center for Racial Justice in Education. 

And it can’t just be a conversation with them. Children listen, children watch, and children want to act.  So your discussions with your friends, family and loved ones are just as influential. It creates a circle of understanding, bigger than your words alone.  And of course, your actions toward your fellow person, toward change, will be just as powerful to shape your little ones. Children model what they see.   

Now, I recognize I am a person who is white. My wife is white and so are my children.  So I know that my conversations about racism will be very different than that of families of color.  I don’t pretend to know how those conversations will go for those families – but this clip helped me understand its gravity. 

At Pediatric Associates of the Northwest, we are deeply committed to doing our part to prevent discrimination for children and families.  We also know that racism has lifelong health effects, as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  If you or your child are experiencing these concerns, our integrative team of medical and mental health providers are here to listen and help.

In addition to helping others, we at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest condemn all forms of racism.  However, we realize that as a healthcare practice and as individuals, we likely lack sufficient cultural and racial knowledge, which may lead to unintentional biases.  So, just this week our leadership has made a re-commitment to assessing and uprooting our own biases to make our practice as inclusive and comprehensive as possible for all. We don’t have all the answers but we will listen, learn, take action, and hold ourselves accountable. We stand strong, we stand together.


Additional Resources

Talking to Children about Racism: The Time is Now

Anti-Racism Resources