Do you talk to your kids about race?

This article has a great (eye-opening) explanation of why you should.

“Kids as young as six months judge others based on skin color.”

“It was no surprise that in a liberal city like Austin, every parent was a welcoming multiculturalist, embracing diversity. But according to Vittrup’s entry surveys, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. They might have asserted vague principles—like “Everybody’s equal” or “God made all of us” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”—but they’d almost never called attention to racial differences.

They wanted their children to grow up colorblind. But Vittrup’s first test of the kids revealed they weren’t colorblind at all. Asked how many white people are mean, these children commonly answered, “Almost none.” Asked how many blacks are mean, many answered, “Some,” or “A lot.” Even kids who attended diverse schools answered the questions this way.

More disturbing, Vittrup also asked all the kids a very blunt question: “Do your parents like black people?” Fourteen percent said outright, “No, my parents don’t like black people”; 38 percent of the kids answered, “I don’t know.” In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions—many of which would be abhorrent to their parents.”

Wow.  A group of liberal, open-minded, non-racist parents – probably a lot like many of you – and more than half of their children answered that their parents didn’t like black people or they didn’t know. 

Colorblindness does not work.  Even just placing your child in a diverse environment does not work.  What works is having the conversation – early and often.  It’s okay to acknowledge that people look different.  It’s okay to acknowledge that people sound different and act different.  And its important to talk about what those differences do and do not mean.

I know it can feel uncomfortable and you may be unsure of exactly what to say.  Here’s a tip for getting the conversation started: use books!

These are a couple we are loving in our house right now (click pic for the amazon link):

A fun book with engaging pictures and a clear message!

The Sesame Street gang are my kids’ BFFs – I like this book for using familiar and well-loved friends to introduce a new message.

 

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10 Responses to “Do you talk to your kids about race?”

  1. great post! and thank you for the book recs!

  2. Glad you posted this. I’m from the deep South and here racial barriers still go strong. We live in a racially diverse (sort of) neighborhood and attend a racially diverse (more black and white than diverse, but you get the idea) church. What we’ve realized is that simply having neighbors and fellow congregants that are different colors means nothing. We have to be intentional about our relationships with people from other races.

    My dream… a group of friends as mixed and muddied as we are. Moms, dads, grandparents, kids, cousins varied and different. In fact, recently window shopping for a doll house set for Simeon (yeah… our community may be more comfortable with the color of his skin than the fact we let our son play with dolls) I quipped that I wanted to buy one of each family (asian, white, black, brown) so that our kids could mix and match a family like ours.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our girls need books like these but they are so hard to find.

  4. I love you. That is all.

  5. Thanks for this – so so important, for parents and kids of all races! Of course, I might side with the kids who said “I don’t know” because it depends on the person. 🙂 But I obviously understand the point!

  6. I had read this a while ago, but forgot about it. Thank you for reposting!! I just ordered the seasame street book.

  7. Thanks for posting, CT. I am going to check out the books.

  8. We started talking about race, racial politics and skin color when my son was six. We explained about melanin and the evolutionary reasons that some peoples hair and skin are different. This led to my son stating that his friend Michael had lemon in his skin. (Lemon meaning melanin. Cracked us up.) We continue to enforce that differences are okay and that he should never judge someone by what they look like. And we have friends that are of different races and ethnicities than us. (That is the driving force behind breaking down racial barriers – be friends.)

    I have to say though, that the mother of Michael (who is white) had absolutely no issues with telling me (a lesbian) that she believed homosexuality was an abomination. And then she couldn’t understand why I was willing to be friends with her ex husband but not her. I was accused of persecuting her because of her religious beliefs

  9. More than anything, having close friends of different races teaches kids what parents real views are. Actions speak louder than words. Also – acknowledge that NOT all people of different races sound and act different, and that many people from different parts of the country of any race sound and act different. Culture and race are not synonymous. That matters too – especially if your non-white kids grow up learning to speak standard American English but are not white. (Lots of black kids, including myself, were teased and derided horribly for “talking white” by other black kids who were ignorant about cultural/economic privilege differences within our race.)

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