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Teaching Against Racism: How to Talk to Your Child About Race

1 Sep 2015 – 07:57 AM EDT

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“Is teaching against racism really necessary?” my friend pondered during a conversation about race. She said she’s worked hard to raise her children not to see color, instead looking at what’s inside a person and worries talking about racism just points out differences she’s been teaching her kids to ignore.

While I applaud her for working hard to raise children who don’t care about skin color, racism still very much exists in our world and it’s important for us all to talk to our children about it. This empowers children to both know when it’s happening to them and how to determine if it’s happening to someone else. Here are some ways to talk about racism with your child.

Don’t scold them for noticing differences.

Kids notice from an early age that people look different. Don’t scold your child for pointing out their classmate looks differently than them. Use it as an opportunity to approach the topic of race. Explain that we’re all different and it’s okay to notice. Then explain in an age appropriate way that some people are mistreated because of the color of their skin and why it’s wrong.

Ask about their experiences.

They’ve probably witnessed more thank you think. Ask if they’e ever noticed someone treated unfairly because of their skin color. Ask if it’s ever happened to them. Ask how it made them feel.

Have someone share their experiences.

Tell them about times you’ve experienced racism. If you aren’t a person of color, invite a friend who is over to share their experiences. Hearing the perspective of someone who deals with racism firsthand is the best way to really wrap your head around the impact.

Dive into history and don’t hide from current events.

Talk to your child about slavery, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, segregation and other dark parts of our history. Bring up current events like Ferguson and Donald Trumps latest racist comments. Talk about both history and current news in an age appropriate, but honest manner. Take time to answer their questions and ask their thoughts.

Teaching against racism through books, TV and movies:

Books, TV shows and movies are a great way to open up dialogue. Visit your local library or bookstore and fire up Netflix or YouTube. A few of the many children’s books that discuss diversity include:

  • “Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss
  • “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman
  • “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester
  • “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
  • “Busing Brewster” by Richard Michelson

Ignoring racism won’t keep your child from seeing it or experiencing it. It’s important to talk openly with your child, so they can be a strong advocate for tolerance.