Alex Landau’s mother Patsy Hathaway believed that love was enough when it came to raising her adopted black son—until he was beaten up by Denver police in a routine traffic stop. Landau says he was attacked after asking for a warrant; police say they thought he was reaching for one of their guns.
“Had I prepared Alex properly, he would have suffered less,” says Hathaway today, five years after the 2009 incident. “I regret this. But he would not have become the leader that he is destined to be either. Alex is in a position to help reduce others’ suffering, as well as to expose injustice and racism.”
Landau, who was given a settlement by Denver Police in 2011, is now a student and an activist. His mom wants everyone to know what she learned: a list of ways adoptive parents of kids can better support their children of a different race throughout their lives.
- "Preschoolers experience prejudice. So teach younger children the best you can [about racism], in simple language. Lessons can become more elaborate as kids mature."
- "Children should deeply understand that racism is not their fault; there’s nothing wrong with them. Try to explain that without vilifying others."
- "Universalize it. Talk about white slavery in Greece, the Jewish experience, the struggle that Hispanics face. It’s not just blacks who have suffered; it’s a problem of how people treat each other. You don’t want children to feel that it’s just their race, or who they are."
- "Talk about the movement, the civil rights leaders and how they made a difference. Introduce people your children can identify with and want to emulate."
- "When kids are older, parents need to get practical about how to handle potentially dangerous situations like police stops. Make sure your kids know their rights and that they understand the recommended way to handle themselves with the police. We want our kids to live to become peaceful agents of change."