WASHINGTON — The racist comments recently allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling were difficult for many to hear and digest. But for parents — especially black parents — his comments became a call to action for a conversation with their kids.
Silver Spring, Maryland mom Pam G.* says she talks to her son continuously about everything. She calls Sterling’s comments ignorant.
“I think if we keep an open dialogue, we should be OK,” she says.
Prince George’s County mom Kecia Smith says she explained to her son that some people just see color.
“You just have to ignore people’s stupidity,” Smith says.
While negative comments about race are hurtful, clinical psychologist Erlanger Turner says they can also create teachable moments for parents that prompt a conversation on race and the differences kids perceive.
“Ask your kids what they think of Sterling’s comments. You definitely have to acknowledge the fact that it’s not a positive thing and it was not a good comment that he made,” says Turner, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
Turner says parents should provide their children more detailed information at an age-appropriate level. He says sticking to the facts of the situation is the best way to have those conversations.
But the facts sometimes get lost in an attempted discussion on race.
“The problem is that a lot of times parents speak in code and they think they’re talking about race, but they’re not really,” says Ashley Merryman, co-author of “NurtureShock,” a contemporary handbook for parents.
“They will say something like,