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There Is No Kiddie Table in Activism

A brightly colored table with party hats, large confetti circles, paper plates and plastic flatware, and a small birthday cake.

[Image description: A brightly colored table with party hats, large confetti circles, paper plates and plastic flatware, and a small birthday cake.]

I’m part of this parenting group on Facebook and I think at least once a week I come across a post that makes me roll my eyes so hard I fall over backwards. This week someone shared a story about their child telling them they were “only and kid and couldn’t change anything”. This spurred the parent to say they were going to include their child in making online donations (this is such a white middle class thing to do). Their ask was what else could they do to involve their kid in change work and, oh yeah, they can’t leave the house because of COVID-19.

After many pats on the back for this parent from other (white middle class) parents for teaching their child about “generosity” they were largely silent about how to actually help this parent teach their child that throwing money at a problem isn’t really a solution (although it does help, don’t stop throwing your money at local organizations doing radical change work!). 

I commented

I would start following local groups on social media that do local activism. Right now a lot of them are providing options for at-home activism. Things like making public comments (this is often an online process, no need to go to the meeting) with school districts calling to end police contracts or calling your mayor or board supervisors to demand various policy changes. A lot of City Councils and County Boards allow online public comment too. I would find out what local groups are asking for help advocating for and then involve your kid in the process of doing it. It’s also a way to open discussion about how national issues are also local.

After me another parent listed a website that is designed to get kids to volunteer for various organizations a la logging your required community service hours in high school. I felt my eyes rolling back in my head and suddenly I was on the floor. 

Look, getting kids to volunteer and see us give away money is great. These are things they should be doing and getting experience with. But if we’re talking about teaching them to make real change in this world, like tearing down systems of oppression, we need them doing actual movement work with us. Bring them with you to meetings. Have them write letters with you or draw on the envelopes. My older daughter helped decorate posters that said “Fuck the Police”. Have them make phone calls if they’re older or have them help you dial or sit there and listen to you make the call. Take them out to marches; take them out to car caravan marches; take them out to press conferences; take them to school board meetings. Teach them how to make a public comment both in person and online. 

The COVID-19 excuse is also something I want to tackle here. Look it is 250% valid to not be able to have contact/go out during this pandemic. But I see a lot of parents offering it up as an excuse to do nothing when in reality local organizations are doing a lot of organizing virtually. Call-ins, teach-ins, petitions, letters, fundraising. Folks are getting creative. Let’s not use this as an excuse to uphold white supremacy.

The added benefit of bringing your kids with you to meetings, events, rallies, marches, and protests is that it normalizes having kids at these things. Often meetings, like city council meetings, intentionally don’t have childcare as a way to deter parents from being able to be there. 

It’s radical to create spaces where children are welcome as change makers and our youngest activists. We need to be including our kids in what we do, not shunting them off to the kiddie table of activism.   

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

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