When Do I Start?
The statistics show that it is never too early to start.
“The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language (e.g., a child raised bilingual vs. a child who starts learning Spanish in junior high). Biology determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder.
As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding,”
according to Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP in HealthyChildren .
So, the answer is that it is vital to start as soon as you can. Kids in this age group have likely witnessed many instances of racism in their daily lives. Since they may not recognize the encounters as based on race, they may acquire discriminatory behaviors.
- For example, they may see many workers in low wage jobs who are of certain races, and their expectation may be that these are all the only jobs certain people can master.
- Friends at school might have families that promote exclusionary tactics. Peer pressure escalates during this time period in a child’s life. Sometimes peer pressure may be more influential than parental guidance. Your constant support for inclusion and diversity is needed more than ever.
- Unfortunately, many media stories support racism. Their effect can be cumulative, especially if no discussions about systemic racism happens at home or school.
- Often the history of racism is distorted in media, in the images in our community, and through schoolbooks so that your child will not gain an accurate picture of the conditions of slavery, the heroism of those who resisted, and the conditions that still exist today.
1 How to Share Media to Promote Diversity
A – Preview the Material
You and your family have a shared understanding of every aspect of your world. You need to preview the media you want to use so that you know it aligns with your world view.
Some of the material will include concepts that might frighten your kids, be in a juvenile format, or be so complicated that they will not comprehend the importance. It is crucial to discuss age-appropriate media examples. Make careful selections so that you can impact your kid’s understanding of the issues.
B – Watch or Read It Together
Once you have previewed the material and determined that it is a good fit for discussion, watch or read it together.
Stop at significant points to uncover what your child understands. Ask pertinent questions instead of going into lengthy discussions that may not be relevant to your child.
C – Ask Questions, Don’t Tell
After the viewing, you may want to ask such questions as
- Did you find anything confusing in the video?
- Is there anything more you want to know?
- What did you learn by reading this book? How will it make an impact on your life?
- How will the ideas in the video help you with your friends?
D – What Not To Do
Sometimes without any malicious intent, people use inappropriate methods for explaining concepts. Take care of the way you approach your kids at this age.
- Teach the facts, but do not dwell on the brutality of the period.
- Use historical accounts and media accounts, but do not introduce the concepts as a game as this is clearly not respectful of the gravity of the situation.
- This is not the time for dramatic interpretation. Do not ask your child to imagine they are a salve. Talk about the issues, but do not use dramatic readings to teach what happened. Do not put your child into the position of being a slave, such as having them experience what 4 square feet on the slave ship would mean. You do not want them to be traumatized.
2 Continuous Conversations About Inclusion
One talk, no matter how intensive, will not support your kids to stand up for diversity and inclusion. They will need multiple conversations and experiences with quality media materials to bolster their understanding of the emerging situation.
While this topic may be uncomfortable for you, it is essential that as your kids mature, they continue to grasp what is happening in their country. They will also need strategies to deal with the inequalities.
Try a variety of exposures to reach your kids. Set up mindful situations for discussion.
3 Link Racist Life Experiences to Media
It is likely your kids will experience bullying, and without a doubt, some of the circumstances will have racist overtones. It will be critical to keep in touch with what is going on in your kids’ day to day experiences to clarify some issues for your kids. You can expect that they will likely defend their friends, despite some clear evidence. You need to persistently point out the contradictions in their beliefs in a manner that still keeps you on their side.
You can use terms such as “It seems to me that your friend is often putting down certain people in your group . .” or “That story suggests that someone is unfair.”
You will gain more trust with your kids by asking questions instead of giving solutions.” You could say, “How could you handle this situation if it arises again so you can support the victim?” “Does your school have an anti-bullying policy, and how would other people view this situation?” “Are there other people in your group who could help you stand up for inclusion?”
Also, you can look for other media resources that reflect the basic concepts of the conflict. Perhaps you will find a resource that shows how one individual made a difference for a friend or how people are handling similar circumstances in other locations. By using media examples, you can normalize your conversations as well as provide proof of some solutions that have worked.
4 Be Aware of Racism in Media
It is easy to become complacent with media influences that you see every day. Incidents such as the George Floyd murder and the ensuing protests do bring initiatives for change directly and indirectly. Be sure to point out errors of omission and lack of criticism from a historical perspective.
One Viewpoint Only: Typically, many young children’s storybooks do not demonstrate inclusiveness. They are books filled with characters of one race only. Many Disney stories are a prime example, although this situation is changing.
Negative Stereotypes: What is more detrimental are stories that paint a negative viewpoint of different races. Many stories include slaves but do not point out how shocking this situation is. If, by chance, you start reading a story to your child without realizing the circumstances, stop the story to explain that this viewpoint is not appropriate. You can tell that this is what happened a long time ago, but that it is not acceptable today because people value everyone’s contribution to society.
5 Educate Yourself About The Intricacies of Racism
Many parents have an inherent understanding of the problems in many modern societies due to their cultural differences. Some people face discrimination daily. However, other people have been insulated by this experience through their privileged status. To assist your kids in standing up to racist behavior, you need an in-depth knowledge of the problem. There are many ways to gain this insight. It is also critical to go beyond the facts of the situation into how black families, for example, view their safety, future aspirations, and their own worth.
Since many parents feel that they do not have enough background information to filter the current situation, here are a few resources that will fill in some of that gap.
How Parents Can Help Kids Understand the Protests and Fight Racism You can hear some different perspectives about the recent unrest, ignited by the murder of George Floyd.
Introduction of Slavery: This video explains the need for and history of slavery, so you will be prepared to give your kids some accurate historical information. It presents the information in a concise manner.
The New Jim Crow: In this well-researched account by an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, learn about the pervasiveness of racism on generations of blacks. “A call to action for everyone concerned with racial justice and an important tool for anyone concerned with understanding and dismantling this oppressive system.”
Videos to Share
Sesame Street Town Hall: Stand Up to Racism: Show some sections to your young kids; other parts are for older kids and adults.
Discrimination Explained: Discrimination is explained in simple terms for young kids. This video is made for the UK as there is a reference to UK laws, but the general principles apply to all countries.
Racism is Wrong: A sister and brother team of cartoon figures explain why racism is wrong. Although the setting looks like a high school, the explanation is simplified.
Talking to Kids about Racial Equality: In family groupings, parents model how to talk to their kids about racial equality.
Kids and Racism: In a discussion about Racial Harmony Day at school with preteens in Singapore, the moderator asks “What race is your best friend?”
Something Happened in Our Town: In this storybook, a racist incident in town propels several families to discuss the history of slavery to their young kids. Many connections are made to the kids’ situation among their friends. And by the end of the story, the kids stand up for a friend.
Systemic Racism Explained: Systemic racism is examined form a kid’s perspective through comparing the educational situation of poor kids to rich kids. Some solutions are offered at the end. The material is more suitable for older kids as some of the concepts may require discussion.
Black Parents Explain How To Deal with Police: Black parents teach lessons on how to be safe from police. This video will be hard for some kids to watch as the footage boils over with emotion. It demonstrates how careful black people have to be to stay safe.
The Story of Harriet Tubman is told in cartoon form. The video starts with a modern day example of escaping bullies. That story is told to explain about “The Under Ground Railway.”
Rosa Parks: In this video you will hear a brief history of her life and an explanation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Henry’s Freedom Box: Our hero in the story finds an inventive way to freedom. The setting is in the time of slavery. It is an award winning book.
Back of the Bus: This is the Rosa Parks story told through the eyes of a young black boy who is sitting at the back of the bus with his mother.
Rosa: This 40 page novel depicts the prejudices of the Rosa Parks era. You can easily read it to younger children. With older kids it might be helpful to discuss what is happening in chapter by chapter. Remember ask questions, don’t tell.
Dr. Martin Luther King: In this cartoon introduction about Dr. M.L. King, you learn a few facts about his childhood and personal life. His influence on the civil rights movement is still felt today.
Mae Jamieson: Your grade 3- 5 kids will enjoy reading about the life of this amazing woman who came from a disadvantaged background but let nothing stop her from achieving her dream.
A Voice Named Aretha: Read about the story of this famous singer who has enchanted generations of fans. She was a champion for inclusion. Suitable for kids to grade 3 to read by themselves. In the turbulent 1960s, she sang about “Respect” and refused to perform before segregated audiences.
Pizza Party: Disaster strikes in the grade 3 classroom. The class is set to win a prize for excellent behavior when the substitute teacher suspects some are cheating. This chapter book is a worthwhile read for kids in grades 3 or 4. It will spark considerable discussion.
A Kids Book About Racism: The advice inside the book is “better together” signifying that the book is best understood when kids and their parents read the book together. It is a visual representation of the concept of and feelings about racism.
The Undefeated This poem is suitable for all ages. It is well recognized. Winner of the 2020 Caldecott Medal,
A 2020 Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the 2020, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
Say Something: Although this book does not solely target racism, it appeals to our humanity and compassion for others. In doing so, it gives everyone a solution on an individual basis to make a difference.
Ghost Boys: This book is suitable for grades 5 to 7 or as a read-aloud. A boy dies after being shot by a policeman because he had a gun. Tragically it was a toy gun. In the book, you witnesses the devastation of his family.
Nancy Green, The Real Aunt Jemima: Learn about the history behind the corporate image of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrup. In the news follow what the corporations are doing as a result of the recent protests.
What is Juneteenth?: This video gives the historical background of the importance of this date for freedom.
Juneteenth (Our History): This book is written for kids ages 8 to 12. Along with information, there is a recipe for corn muffins and instruction to build a Juneteenth pinwheel flag.
Why is Juneteenth such an Important Holiday? This brief video explains the important of June 19th in a graphic form.
Juneteenth for Mazie: Have your kids read about the importance of Juneteenth as seen through a young girl’s eyes. Her parents make sure she understands the importance of the day.
Sophie and Lelah Celebrate Juneteenth: Two girl cousins who have grown apart, rekindle their friendship on Juneteenth.
Testimonial: Addie McConnell: Thank you for posting this! I did a survey at a black lives matter protest that included a question of what grade we should start talking to students about racism and inequality, and this will be very helpful.
Indeed, you will have to tailor the way you use these media samples with your kids to suit both of your personalities. With a little patience, you can support their growth so
your kids can stand up to racism.