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Talking about Race with Young Children

March 16, 2019

We’ve had several Community Conversations related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Saline.  One topic that has come up by both parents and staff is the issue of talking about race with each other – especially our children/students.  Speaking with community member Channon Washington, she noted, “Families of color have to talk about race at early ages – often and always. It is a misnomer and does a disservice to White students if parents do not engage their young children in these conversations early.”

Recently, National Public Radio shared information on talking to young children about race. The story noted that even babies notice differences like skin color, eye shape, and hair texture.  Some of the ideas about how to handle conversations about race, racism, diversity, and inclusion, even with very young children are listed below:

A few things to remember:

  • Be proactive, helping them build a positive awareness of diversity.
  • Don’t shush or shut them down if they mention race.
  • Don’t wait for kids to bring it up.
  • When a child experiences prejudice, grown-ups need to both address the feelings directly and fight the prejudices.
  • You don’t have to avoid topics like slavery or the Holocaust.  Instead, give the facts and focus on resistance and allies.

Some additional Resources:

  • Babies begin to notice race at six months old – in fact according to this pair of studies by Professor Kang Lee at the University of Toronto, they actually show signs of racial bias by this age.
  • One in 10 children is multiracial – according to Pew Research Center.  This includes children with parents of two different races, plus those with at least one multiracial parent.
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