Talking to your Children about Racial Justice
The events over the last week have been traumatic for many in our community, particularly for those who identify as Black or African American. While race and systemic racism are a daily discussion in many houses, current events are raising questions throughout all corners of the ACPS community. Discussions of race can be difficult for some, particularly for those who grew up with silence on the topic. Thus, some may have questions about how to have conversations about race with their kids. Here is some advice from our school counseling team.
There are many different ways for families to have discussions about race, and there is no one set of tips that will apply in all instances. However, the below information might be helpful as guidelines:
- Take a self-inventory: As a parent or guardian, you are the model for your children. Think about how race was talked about when you were a child, or even if it was. What messages did you receive based on these discussions about race or by the silence? What are your own feelings, understandings and knowledge on race in the U.S.? This is a time to be reflective and honest with yourself.
- Educate yourself and be open with your kids about your learning: From your self-inventory, assess where you may have some gaps in information, such as the history of race in the U.S., what structural racism is, or why some phrases or actions are offensive. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Watch videos. Your own learning as a parent or guardian can become discussions for the whole family.
- Let go of “colorblindness” and assume and ensure your kids are aware of race: Kids nor adults are colorblind. The idea that we “don’t see color” is false and negates all aspects of a person’s identity. Rather than having color silence, discuss what they know, what is happening in the world, and what you know. If you cannot answer the questions, it is an opportunity to learn together with your child. Engage in discussion about identity and what makes up one’s identity.
- Challenge stereotypical practices in age-appropriate ways: Many people of color can remember a time when they were excluded from play because of race. An example is being told that they can’t be a princess, a king, a police officer, or a person of authority because of skin color or hair texture. When this occurs, focus on the feelings and fairness. Name the behavior. Share concrete examples that rebut the assertion or stereotype.
- Be proactive: Build positive awareness of race and identity. Celebrate differences as well as similarities. Make sure that kids have access to books with diverse characters and heroes. Seek ways to broaden your own community circles and cultural experiences.
- You can talk about race, racism and systems of oppression. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Give concrete examples. Provide age appropriate information. Highlight examples of resistance as well as examples of people of different backgrounds working together to make the world a better place.
- Encourage your school community to support and infuse equity and fairness into the pedagogy and curriculum. It is important to support your child’s school in their own discussions about race, racism and equity. Be a voice in your school community that helps to inspire equitable practices and resources.
Resources for learning:
- First, Listen. Then, Learn: Anti-Racism Resources For White People, an article from Forbes
- Video: CNN and Sesame Street town hall on racism
- Animation Series: Something Happened In Our Town: A video of a book titled “Something Happened One Day.” In the story a family models how to have empowering conversations with children. See the American Psychological Association’s interview with the author about the book.
For more information:
Refer to our strategies for teaching racial justice