Writer, creator of the Babes About Town blog, and mum of two football-loving boys, Uju Asika shares thoughts from her new book Bringing Up Race: How to raise a kind child in a prejudiced world, and why she believes kindness is key in every conversation
As a woman who wears many hats – including author, screenwriting, blogger, creative consultant, and mum – it’s fair to say that Uju Asika is an incredibly busy woman. When we speak, however, there’s no sense of an overflowing to-do list. Uju is generous with her time, and ready to continue the conversation she started with her brilliant book, Bringing Up Race: How to raise a kind child in a prejudiced world.
With a sentiment that is undoubtedly all-too-familiar for a lot of us, Uju shares that 2020 was not the year she anticipated, particularly as a parent, when she first started to write her book in September 2019. However, she has focused on finding a positive from lockdowns and uncertainty.
“I’ve managed, just like everyone else, one day after another,” Uju says. “Mums tend to have this internal pressure to be all things, and to do everything, and I think that this year especially was a huge wake-up call. It taught us that, actually, a lot of that stuff is unnecessary, and you just have to focus on what really matters.”
With that in mind, it became clearer than ever for Uju that one of her main focuses is to encourage greater conversations about the prejudice that exists in our society, and how parents, regardless of race or ethnicity, can help children to recognise and respond to racism. Here, Uju shares six insights on how to approach conversations on race:
Learning never stops
I realise that, even as a Black mum, raising Black kids in the western world, I have my lived experiences but in terms of my re-education, that’s ongoing. For example, learning that babies start to notice ethnic differences at an early age – by three months old they’re already taking in race. Babies look to us to make sense of the world, and if parents are “colour blind” and act as though race doesn’t matter, it doesn’t help our children.
‘Messy’ conversations are vital
If you think about when children play, they often make a mess. As a mum, it’s the last thing you want, but actually that mess is crucial for their development. It’s the same thing when you’re having conversations about race; you need to have space for their mess and discomfort so that you can get to learning, understanding and, ultimately, a better place.
Speak with other parents
I spoke to so many people for the book – Italian, Greek, Polish, Nigerian, Dominican, and more parents, all different ethnicities. To me, those were essential conversations to have. We need to connect in order to understand each other, and we do this through listening and sharing our stories.
There’s always so much more to explore when it comes to race and ethnicity.
Disrupt the patterns
A lot of people don’t understand their rights when it comes to racial bullying, especially when it comes to their children and school. If the school isn’t receptive, there are other things that you can do – you can take it to the Board of Governors, or you can take it out to your community and get support. The most important thing is that you disrupt these patterns of behaviour and look for help, because it is out there.
Approach with kindness
Kindness is an essential element that tends to be missing from a lot of conversations about racism and prejudice, especially at the current time, where the world feels fractious. Social media can be very divisive.
Discussions can be so emotional and fraught with people’s personal experiences that if you don’t approach them with kindness, then you’re always going to be hitting up against a brick wall, because people feel resistant and protective of what they’ve experienced, or defensive about what they don’t understand.
Encourage active kindness
Every parent wants to raise a kind child – that’s one common desire for all of us. No matter where you are on your personal journey, you want your child to go out in the world and be a force for good – and that starts with you.
Kindness is quite a profound, almost spiritual quality. ‘Kind’ it’s very much an active word for me – as opposed to ‘being nice’ which is sitting back and being passive. Kindness really is about going out of your way to do the right thing, and that takes courage, too.
Bringing Up Race: How to raise a kind child in a prejudiced world is out now, and available in hardback, audio, and ebook (Yellow Kite, £16.99).
Check out Uju’s blog at babesabouttown.com