Allies unite: Creating a Black Lives Matter ally out of your teen

August 18, 2020
PHOTO: Getty Images

The Black Lives Matter movement is creating significant momentum for social change right now. Coming face to face with racial injustice and recognizing that opportunities for well-being are not equally available to Black people can be an emotional experience for many teens. In particular, White teens with a strong understanding of how their race plays a role in how they see themselves and how others perceive them might feel impassioned and motivated to join with others and make changes in their community. Some teens might feel confused, guilty or defensive as they become aware of the ways in which Black people experience inequality in the United States.

Parents have a key role in helping teens grow to be actively anti-racist, open-minded allies who fight against racial inequality. What we choose to do with our teens models our values and what we think is important in the world. Some ideas for activities you can do with your teen this summer and fall to help them learn to be anti-racist allies are below:

1. Get crafty: Is your teen looking for activities to combat boredom during COVID-19? Now would be a great time to get them engaged in a little arts and crafts, encouraging them to make something in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Part of being an anti-racist ally is actively speaking out about racism, rather than staying silent in the discussion all around us. Maybe your teen would want to make a Black Lives Matter sign for your home’s window or a protest sign against police brutality that they could post on their social media site. Encourage their expression and let them know you are proud of them for speaking out for equality.

2. Movie night: Choose an educational documentary or movie related to Black history. This can be a great way to spend time together, learn together and help start conversations. Currently major streaming networks such as Amazon, Netflix and Hulu all offer curated lists of acclaimed films or documentaries featuring acclaimed Black cinema or Black Lives Matter content. A good film on this topic: Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (Laurens Grant) is a review of the Black Lives Matter movement.

3. Support local Black-owned business: Help your teen understand the power of their dollar and teach them the value of supporting local Black-owned businesses. Next time your family needs to buy something or order take out, get your teen to help you search for the local Black-owned business that you can support. A list featuring multiple Black-owned local businesses is available here.

4. Create a reading club: Reading works on racism and racial inequality is a great way to start meaningful discussions with your youth. You might choose to read the same novel as your teen and discuss it, listen to an audiobook when you are together in the car, or help your teen host a virtual book club with their friends (and parents). There are so many great works out there on this theme for teens – a nice starting list is here.

5. Tour your teen’s social media: The Black Lives Matter movement has been powerfully represented on social media, and people are posting and reposting strong and moving messages in support of the movement and against racism – just like people have been posting racist messages as well. Your teen is likely viewing and possibly participating in these racial conversations at some level. So, talk about it with them. Some pointers: Try to really let your teen be the teacher as they guide you through these mediums. Ask your teen to explain his or her social media to you. What platforms are they on the most and what are they seeing about racism in the U.S. right now? Ask them to show you what posts they like. What do they think about it? What have they been posting? You might find it starts some great discussions.

Socializing our teens to be anti-racist citizens is, of course, a long-term project. The good news is that adolescents naturally want to get involved and make things better. Small action steps like these listed here can help our teens gain the confidence and momentum to keep involving themselves in anti-racism work in the future. 

Post by:

Brenda Duran and Stephanie Chapman, PhD