Talking About Race
Conversations with kids about race need to happen early, often and honestly. The goal of more frequent, intentional conversations on topics like race, oppression, conscious bias, and unconscious bias, is to dismantle the color-blind framework that was created, and can be changed. As we prepare young people to work toward racial justice and equity for themselves, and others.
If we commit to collectively talk about race with young children, we can lean on one another for support as we, together, envision a world where we actively challenge racism each and every day.
Let kids know race is constructed.
Though some may swear there is biological foundation, there is absolutely no scientific, anthropological or genetic basis for race. Race was created by people with power, wanting to uphold positions and depth of power over others.
The notion of race was created to psychologically and socially “normalize” the heinous, and horrific acts of one group of people against another. Explain to your kids that notions of racial superiority are illogical, and detrimental to our communities as a whole. There is absolutely no justification for the systemic abuse, exploitation, oppression and genocide of any group of people.
Making this distinction clear is very important in your child’s ability to critically assess narratives or judgements they may encounter of those different from themselves as they grow up.
Explain that race does not determine their value, abilities or interests.
Teaching your children that race does not determine what a person values, what they're capable of or not capable of, or what they're interested in is important in decolonizing our outward perceptions of others.
It’s important to remember that one person of a particular race or identity is not the spokesperson, or representative for every person of their race or identity.
Assuming so can lead to harmful consequences and ruin opportunities to strengthen relationships with others, and can affect their health as a result.
“As moms and dads, we can be scared to talk about something so raw, and ugly. But not bringing it up doesn’t protect your family. It only puts the conversation in others’ hands.”
- Tamara Buckley, The Color Blind: Talking (And Not Talking About Race at Work author
Let kids know different is not bad or weird.
It’s not a bad thing to acknowledge someone’s skin color, physical characteristics and cultural differences, but how it’s done, where it’s done, and why it’s done DOES matter.
It is important to teach our children about diverse people, without putting the safety, well-being or value of another at their risk or expense.
Explain the concept of stereotypes to younger children.
If kids are older, let them explain what they think it means.
Explain that stereotypes are often developed when people are misinformed and therefore make judgments about all members of a particular group.
Together, brainstorm some examples to demonstrate the idea that not all people belonging to a group are exactly the same! This is a wonderful thing and shows why differences among all of us are good not bad.
"Every youth needs to be nurtured to practice empathy, not judgement. To be critical thinkers, young people must be exposed to news about every demographic."
- Renee Wilson, High School Educator
Discuss examples of historical or institutional racism.
Emphasize that racism is not just a problem of the past.
Explain that negative stereotypes and racist treatment toward minority groups still exist today as seen in the recent cases of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. These examples demonstrate how stereotypes, discrimination and racism continue to harm innocent people of color and have taken many lives.
Families and communities are uniting together today, to show their support for equality and social change.
Explain that even though unfairness exists in our country, there are many people who work extremely hard to change it.
Emphasize to kids that they can be part of that change too. As a family, discuss ways that each of you can help to make a difference every day.