Teaching children about race, racism, and racial literacy

Taken from a piece on racial bias and children from US-based embracerace.org

How to teach children about racial and cultural literacy

“1. Start early. Let your child know that it’s perfectly okay to notice skin color and talk about race. Encourage her to ask questions, share observations and experiences, and be respectfully curious about race.

2. Realize that you are a role model to your child. What you say is important, but what you do, how diverse your circle of friends is, for example, will probably have an even bigger impact on your child. If he doesn’t attend a diverse school, if you’re able, consider enrolling him in activities such as sports leagues that are diverse. Choose books, toys, and movies that include people of different races and ethnicities. Visit museums with exhibits about a range of cultures and religions.

3. Let your child see you face your own biases. We’re less likely to pass on the biases we identify and work to overcome. Give your child an example of a bias, racial or otherwise, that you hold or have held. Share with your child things you do to confront and overcome that bias.

4. Know and love who you are. Talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family strongly identify with. Talk about their contributions and acknowledge the less flattering parts of those histories as well. Tell stories about the challenges your family, your child’s parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents, others, has faced and overcome.

5. Develop racial cultural literacy by learning about and respecting others. Study and talk about the histories and experiences of groups we call African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Whites, among others. Be sure your child understands that every racial and ethnic group includes people who believe different things and behave in different ways. There is more diversity within racial groups than across them.

6. Be honest with your child, in age-appropriate ways, about bigotry and oppression. Children are amazing at noticing patterns, including racial patterns (who lives in their neighborhood versus their friends’ neighborhoods, for example). Help them make sense of those patterns, and recognize that bigotry and oppression are sometimes a big part of those explanations. Be sure your child knows that the struggle for racial fairness is still happening and that your family can take part in that struggle.

7. Tell stories of resistance and resilience. Every big story of racial oppression is also a story about people fighting back and “speaking truth to power.” Teach your child those parts of the story too. Include women, children and young adults among the “freedom fighters” in the stories you tell.

8. Teach your children to be “upstanders” for racial justice. Help your child understand what it means to be, and how to be, a change agent. Whenever possible, connect the conversations you’re having to the change you and your child want to see, and to ways to bring about that change.

9. Plan for a marathon, not a sprint. Make race talks with your child routine. Race is a topic you should plan to revisit again and again in many different ways over time. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let’s come back to that later, okay?” But then be sure to come back to it”.