In 2020, Black and white parents discussed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with their children ages 8-11, but the way the topic was discussed differed greatly depending on race, a new study has found.
Researchers at Northwestern University sampled more than 700 socioeconomically diverse Black and white parents six weeks before the 2020 murder of George Floyd and three weeks after. They found that Black parents had more conversations on race than white parents, and the difference became more pronounced after Floyd’s murder by a white police officer.
While 84 percent of Black parents had spoken to their children about the BLM Movement in the year following Floyd’s murder, only 76 percent of white parents reported the same.
When talking with their children, 78 percent of Black parents said they affirmed Black lives – such as by telling their child that they are important regardless of what the media says – and acknowledged systemic racism. Only 35 percent of white parents indicated they had shared similar messaging with their children.
“While it is notable that many parents, including white parents, were talking with their children about Black Lives Matter, it is more important to consider what parents said,” developmental psychologist Leoandra Onnie Rogers, lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.
Respondents were also given open-ended questions. Their responses from those were then coded and categorized by the research team.
The researchers found that Black parents were far less likely to use “colorblind” messages when talking with their children than white parents, and these differences too were more pronounced after Floyd’s death.
However, in the open-ended questions section, 27 percent of white parents provided responses that appeared to be copied from Internet sources and pasted word for word into the survey.
White parents, the study found, were also more likely than Black parents to “communicate uncritical equality,” such as by saying things like “All lives matter no matter your skin color.”
“Encouraging parents to talk about race, to break the silence, is necessary but insufficient,” Rogers said. “The upside is these data suggest that parents are listening to the societal conversation, and the concerted effort to engage parents and families in race talk did seem to influence the overall frequency of the reported conversations. However, the depth and substance of these conversations warrants further attention.”