Family matters: Stereotypes

Author: 
Geoff Ayi-Bonte
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

I am the white parent of a 12-year-old boy who is African-Canadian. How do I support him in dealing with stereotypes about Black men and youth?

The best way to deal with stereotypes is to understand them, provide counter-examples, talk about it openly, understand that not everything that may look or sound like a stereotype, actually is one, and to become a social activist.

Understanding stereotypes will increase your ability to spot them as well as talk about them more intelligently. Anticipate that you will have your own “blind spots” about this topic. Read about historical events about Black people, talk to Black people, and ask questions, because your son’s well-being depends on you getting to know his culture. Provide your son with various aspects of Black male culture, so that he can find his path. Being able to talk to your son openly is important. With accurate information, educate him, ask him questions and keep an open dialogue.

Your son is Black in a predominantly Caucasian society (and in a Caucasian family). He will seek out an identity that fits for his world. Many children want to be like their parents. Imagine how challenging it would be for your son to want to be Caucasian, when he will not be accepted as such, and obviously is not. If he is seeking out a “Black identity,” then encourage him. His identity may be a hybrid of some sort, which is natural also. Keep in mind that this part is tough for everyone. Baggy pants, hip hop, and a certain manner of speaking, for example, may look and sound like a stereotype, but it can also be a natural part of aspects of Black culture. As such, remain open, but you will, since you would have read about and talked to other Black people.

No matter how liberal our society appears to be, your son will be a target. Therefore, surround him with as many positive Black influences as possible, so that he may learn from them how to navigate through challenges. If you need help or suggestions, contact me.

This situation will require you to be a social activist. If we remain silent about these issues, our children will pay the price. I am glad that you will be speaking up.

Counselling therapist Geoff Ayi-Bonte, MA RCC, answers your questions on adoption, family dynamics, and transracial families.

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