On Sunday, July 10th, the RE Committee and I met, as we do monthly. We chose to postpone business as usual for a moment and start our time together with a personal check-in. It had been a devastating week with the deaths of Alton Sterling on Tuesday, Philando Castile on Wednesday, and the five Dallas officers on Thursday. As we went around our small circle of four, sharing our feelings about the week and the impact on our children, it was evident how different our experiences were depending on their various ages and stages. Our combined eight children ranged from pre-school to college age!
In my experience it’s easier to talk about what’s happening in the world when your kids are older, often they are watching or hearing the news with you at home or in the car, or they’re seeing it on their social media feeds. With the pre-school through elementary age kids, white parents often feel a little on shaky ground. How do I introduce the topic of race and racism? What is appropriate for them to know? What can we do with small children? I say white families here, because families of color do not enjoy the same choice of whether or not to talk about race and racism, it is a lived experience.
The fact that we, as white families, are asking these questions is a place to start. The next step is being intentional about creating the space for talking about race and racism with our younger kids. According to Tracey Hurd, author of Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook, children as young as 5 begin to recognize racial identification and will often verbalize it as a rigid construct, i.e. “Only white people do _____” or “Only black people do _____.” The good news is they are also receptive to anti-racist intervention and multicultural experience!
So, how do we create that space? How do we introduce the topic? What do we say? There are things that we can do individually and others in a group.
Individually you could:
- Google “talking to kids about race” and read.
- Ask local librarian for age appropriate children’s books to read and discuss with your child.
- Look for booklists online that represent multi-cultural diversity, such as this one from the Oakland CA library: http://oaklandlibrary.org/category/tags/multiracial
- Visit http://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources for age appropriate activity ideas that diminish simplified thinking around race.
- Visit http://www.raceconscious.org/blog/ to read their excellent parent written blog.
- Join a local anti-racist parenting group.
As a group we could:
- Create a local anti-racist parenting group.
- Run a book drive at the congregation to ensure we have a broad selection of multicultural representation within our children’s books.
- Attend a workshop with friends on raising race conscious children!
That last suggestion is also an invitation to join me for an interactive 1.5 hour workshop / webinar offered by the group “Raising Race Conscious Children.” I have reserved a spot and have room for others to join me on Tuesday, August 30th at 5:00 p.m. at the church. We will have childcare and food available. Please RSVP to Dir.RE@TahomaUU.com.
Raising Race Conscious Children
Tuesday, August 30th, 5:00 p.m.
We often avoid talking about race with our young children but, whether we like it or not, children notice similarities and differences between people. When we are silent, they are left to draw their own conclusions about what “different” means. Without coaching or support, their conclusions often reflect and reinforce biases. Fortunately – when we are intentional – we can impact the ways that our children see, categorize, and make meaning about race.
In this 1.5 hour-long workshop/webinar, you will:
Develop confidence to talk about race with young children.
Practice various strategies to proactively talk about race with young children.
Strengthen children’s ability to become a change-maker.
Yours Along The Journey,