Why does educating kids on race matter? Experts agree that discussing race, racism and accurate historical information in school and at home reduces prejudice among students of all racial backgrounds and is foundational to building a more equitable society, now and in the future. Additionally, helping historically excluded and marginalized students develop positive ethnic-racial identities improves academic outcomes, health and overall well-being.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Ph.D., and Jeffery Robinson are two of the nation’s leading scholars on race, democracy, inequality and criminal justice. They discussed this topic at a recent ParentEd Talk sponsored by Chicago Parent as part of a series of talks with parenting experts. Here are their tips on how to talk to kids about race with your children.
Don’t ignore children’s comments or questions about race
At a young age (as early as 6 months), children may begin to notice and point out differences in people they see around them. When they make comments or questions about race, don’t ignore them. Promoting “color blindness” and ignoring race, racism and stereotypes leads to increased prejudice. Creating and maintaining an open dialogue about race has been associated with lower levels of bias.
“This is something that parents have chosen for decades not to talk about to distract the child,” says Muhammad. “As a result, what the child learns isn’t that the issue isn’t real, but that we shouldn’t talk about it.”
Talk to kids about fairness
Children tend to understand the concept of fairness. Talking to them about concepts of fairness is a way to introduce race and lead them into what they are going to be learning in school. Point out that racism is unfair and unacceptable, which is why we must work together to make a positive change.
Present history to them in age-appropriate ways
Read children’s books that tell the stories of people like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. Talk to your kids about the obstacles those people faced and the impacts they made.
“The resources today that did not exist in our day allow us to have this conversation at home and to encourage age-appropriate curriculum engagement at school,” says Muhammad.
Robinson says the good thing about reading to kids is that you aren’t inserting any theory or bias into the conversation.
“If you talk about what people did and what they said, that’s pure history. It isn’t theory, bias or anything else,” he says.
Expose them to cultural opportunities
Explore different cultural opportunities with your child — whether it be through photos, films, books, or cultural events, and discuss the experience with them.
Tell them the truth
Tell your kids the truth about systemic racism and what is going on in today’s world, using current events.
”People may be afraid of the truth, but the truth will make the rising generation act very differently,” says Robinson.
Looking for more parenting tips from experts? Register for the remaining ParentEd Talks with one ticket!
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