Writer and activist ShiShi Rose wants kids to get involved in the conversation on race.
Rose, 26, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, organized a rally last week for kids and adults to combat police brutality in Foley Square and Thomas Paine Park in lower Manhattan. About 50 people attended.
“We have to talk to them about the issues, but it’s not one singular talk, it’s a continuous talk about how to survive while being of color in America,” Rose said in an interview. “It needs to be an ongoing conversation for all children, and not just children of color, but especially white children, because they are the ones that are growing up to do the things that we’re all fighting against.”
Rose says she has taken up the cause of engaging with her social media followers to keep them educated. Because of the volume of questions and comments, four other people helped her respond until recently, when she decided to run the account on her own. Currently, she boasts a following of more than 30,000 followers on Instagram and blogs on her own site as well.
“We were one of the few people actually talking to people one-on-one and actually answering their questions back. I noticed that a lot of accounts, they wouldn’t really respond to anybody, or they didn’t know how, so we did a lot of research,” she said. “I’ve learned so much in the past couple years just about my own self and culture and about how to tackle these issues in general. I was very uneducated about a lot of topics before I started doing this.”
Word was spread about the rally through Instagram; “Girls” actress, writer, producer and director Lena Dunham shared Rose’s original post to her 2.7 million followers on Instagram. Rose said she didn’t think the post made much of a difference in the rally’s turnout, but she has seen an impact on social media.
“I know that just reading some of the comments after Lena [Dunham] posted that, people were just like, ‘Why get kids involved in this?’ There was not as much positivity as I would have hoped for,” Rose said. “Since she’s done that and some of her followers came over to me, I’ve had to deal with their lack of understanding in a lot of topics. They’re not going to get it because they’re not black, no matter how educated some of these people are.”
In Rose’s original post, she wrote, “I especially better see white kids there. If children of color can grow up in a system and experience racism, then no, your young white child is not to [sic] young to learn about racism and help fight against it.”
“I was actually happy that so many white children came and that after the protest, I got a lot of direct messages asking me if I could try to explain to them how they could educate their white children about racism,” she said. “A lot of parents don’t think their children should be exposed to this kind of thing, that their children are innocent and that they don’t see color … but if black kids have to go through racism, there’s no reason that white kids shouldn’t have to learn not to do it, or about what the other kids go through.”