Kids and Race empowers adults and children to take responsibility for dismantling racism through conversation and action.
TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT RACE (and other difficult things)
Step 1- Recognize and overcome your own barriers to talking about race.
Your own lack of education about the history of racial oppression in America
Your own unease around talking about things that make you uncomfortable
The desire to “just get the conversation over with” so you can go back to living life the way you did before
Step 2- Present Information
Present information in a clear, matter of fact way. Children are often tougher and more mature than we give them credit for, so do not shy away from giving them information that we as adults often find difficult or uncomfortable. You, as the parent or educator, are the expert on the children in your care, so you know what information is most appropriate. Be bold and confident in your approach and things will go well. Avoid using binary terminology with your kids--good/bad, black/white, etc. to help kids grow into greater comfort with ambiguity and complexity.
Step 3- Allow and give space for emotional response
The truth about race in the United States is incredibly troubling and upsetting (and often does not exactly match what is in standard textbooks). Your child should be upset, concerned, confused, or afraid by the realities of systemic racism. Allow for your child to feel these feelings. Do not try to relieve or take away from the horrors of racial oppression by saying things like “things are better now” or framing racial oppression as something that only occurred in the past. Be sure to avoid similes or euphemisms. They are often confusing or distracting for children and serve more as a means to protect the parent from discomfort then to help the child understand. Often times children will first feel sad about what they hear about racial oppression and then move to anger. This is a good thing--anger can be a powerful motivator to moving them towards finding solutions.
Step 4- Think about what you and your child can do to fight for racial justice
Often times we are afraid to have difficult conversations with our children because we feel powerless in the face of such large problems. This can lead to us trying to avoid the problem instead of thinking of ways to proactively engage in solutions. Mutual learning leads to mutual action. Children need to feel like they are part of a solution, especially after having been presented with difficult information. Sit down with your children and think about some things you can do as a family, classroom, school, faith community, etc., to fight for racial justice. Your answer will not be perfect; it will not please everyone, but your efforts to make things better will inspire your children and the people around you.
Step 5- Get moving!
Now that you’ve thought of how you’re going to engage in a solution, it’s time to do it. Be prepared and prepare your children for push back from white people and people of color who may not approve of or understand what you are doing. The goal of your action isn’t to receive praise, it is to meaningfully engage in the fight for racial justice. It is important to relax and have fun. If the action you are undertaking is causing an excessive amount of bickering and stress, think of a new action. This is a movement that requires everyone to sustainably and joyfully do what we can.