Courtesy of Britt Hawthorne/S&S Simon Element
When Britt Hawthorne moved from Illinois to Texas years ago to pursue her teaching career, she very quickly noticed the big differences between what the curriculum was like in the Midwest and what it involved in the South. After seeing and experiencing the whitewashed revisionist history being shared, she sought out a community, individuals who wanted to do things differently.
“I started finding my people,” she tells ESSENCE.
She took to social media and founded a Facebook group for the organization, Montessori For Social Justice.
“I loved what they were saying, I loved what they were doing, and I thought I could do it too, but with a little help,” she recalled.
She began volunteering with MSJ, learning and attending conferences where she would eventually present. These were the roots of what would become his work in anti-racism, which is about actively changing the behaviors, beliefs and, to go further, the policies that allow racist ideals and actions to thrive.
“I’ve been doing anti-racism work for six years now, and that was before anti-racism became mainstream,” she says. “Overwhelmingly, I’ve heard people say, ‘What else can I do? What more can I do to help myself and my children understand and have language?’
This is what she heard the most after deciding to homeschool her two sons. She made this momentous decision when a teacher told her youngest child, who was four at the time, to “shut up”.
“We knew our home would be the safest place that would affirm their many identities, center the darkness, and also help them practice anti-racism tools,” she says.
She soon started sharing a lot on Instagram about anti-racist parenting as she took on homeschooling and found other people wanted to learn more. As these questions about what parents could do for themselves and their children began to flood in, she first teamed up with Tiffany Jewell (author of This book is anti-racist) to give workshops. When the job took a lot more than expected, Hawthorne thought a book on the subject would be the best, most sustainable option to move forward. What started as an e-book, she says, could be very useful for parents, with the help of Christine Platt, author of The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living on Lessis now a physical book, or parental guide, soon available in bookstores. Raising Anti-Racist Children will be released June 7 from the Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon Element.
“It’s full of practical strategies,” she says. “These are scenarios, these are actions you can do with any of your parenting partners, whether it’s your grandmother, your aunt, your beloved, your husband. There is going to be something for everyone.
It includes tools for everything from “organizing an anti-racism book collection” to “conversations about racial identities” and “creating lists of locally owned and BIPOC-owned businesses to support.” It took Hawthorne two years to put the work together, with help from co-writer Natasha Yglesias. And there were hurdles to overcome to see it through, including debates about inclusivity, from who should be on the cover, to who the anti-racism conversations should be (to which she says, “Our liberation should never be traditional or exclusive”).
But the end result is really, as she said, for everyone to be ready to learn and take action.
“The book is really for anyone who has children in their life,” she says. “A lot of it is about unlearning and unpacking the myths and misconceptions we’ve picked up, especially about ourselves, our own people. It is for us to have the tools to identify a racist situation but also to fight it? »
She enlisted 15 contributing authors from diverse backgrounds, bringing the same kind of community that inspired her anti-racism work in creating her book to make sure people can understand what anti-racist parenting looks like for different adults and within different family dynamics of all races.
In a world where critical race theory has been deemed divisive and has let people ban books and pull entire sections of textbooks to sanitize this nation’s history, Raising Anti-Racist Children is needed more than ever. “In the era of anti-critical race theory and book bans, I think we see people who hold more firmly to their values and ideals, but who say anti-racism is important and who want to stand up for anti-racism and make it something that happens to everyone. day in their lives, but don’t know how to do it and don’t know where their role is. With that in mind, the book leaves parents wondering what they know, what they don’t know, and what work they need to do first so they can start trying to raise an anti-racist child.
It hasn’t been the easiest job, but it’s been fulfilling for Hawthorne. Despite the times we live in, she remains encouraged by focusing on what she can do in the present to bring about change and help others do the same.
“At the very beginning of my journey, I spent all my time trying to get an unofficial degree in racism. I spent all my time reading about the issues and about the past 400 years. And not to minimizing all of that, but I also needed to balance my efforts, and the same time that I was spending understanding the problem, I had to spend the same time finding concrete solutions,” she says. That’s what gives me energy and keeps me going.”
“I have a line that goes, ‘I’m not overwhelmed, I’m just getting off. To me, it’s really clear what the problem is. It’s really clear what racism is and who it affects. That’s all I really need to know. I do not dwell on these details and I do not go into the details, ”she adds. “Instead, I’m always thinking throughout my day, how can I spend money that’s going to be different? What can I watch and consume that’s going to be different? How can I open a door and let as many people in as possible? Like with this book. I let 15 people in and take up space in this book. I always think of this as a solution and it keeps me going because there is still so much more There’s so much more I can do.
RAISING ANTI-RACIST CHILDREN: A practical guide for parents, will go on sale by S&S Simon Element on June 7, where books are sold. Learn more about Hawthorne and her work at BrittHawthorne.com.