Explaining What is Race? - Sesame Street

The Importance of Talking About Race With Youth

  • We teach our children from a young age that if we have nothing nice to say – say nothing at all. So when we refuse to talk about race and racial injustices, youth can absorb that silence as complacency and acceptance. We need to discuss race with youth to demonstrate the role we want them to play in society as allies, advocates, and social justice leaders. Racial differences are a human-invented social construct, but they exist as a very real thing in our society, with a real impact on real people. Acknowledging this reality is key to creating change. (Read More...)

    These tips are guided by advice from “Books for Littles”, an organization that uses books to help parents have important conversations with their kids about social issues.

    Be Honest

    Tell our kids that yes – we do see skin color and racial identities. Let your child know that it’s perfectly okay to notice skin color and talk about race. Start talking about what racial differences mean and don’t mean.

    You don’t have to be an expert on race to talk with your child. Be honest about what you don’t know and work with your child to find accurate information.

    Acknowledge

    It is important for adults to acknowledge their own biases. We’re less likely to pass on the biases we identify and work to overcome. It is essential that we uncover our unconscious bias in order to prevent future unintentional discrimination and poor decision-making.

    Try taking the Implicit Association Test, a study designed by Harvard University.

    Encourage

    Encourage your child to ask questions, share observations and experiences, and be respectfully curious about race.

    Be Mindful

    We are role models for our students and children. Our actions speak louder than words, especially for our children. They notice how we treat others, who we are friends with, and the media we keep in our homes.

    Be Open

    When children point out that they like particular skin tones, body shapes, or hair textures more than others. Ask why they feel this way. Help kids separate bias from fact. Use an open, non-judgemental tone. Discuss how all bodies are good bodies – how we differ, and what we have in common.

    Advocate

    Don’t be a “bystander”. Help your child understand what it means to be, and how to be, an advocate for justice. 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.

    Discuss

    Talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family 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

    Explore

    Expose your child to different cultural media: photographs, films, books.

    If your child doesn’t attend a diverse school, consider enrolling them in after-school or weekend activities such as sports leagues that are diverse if you’re able. Choose books and toys that include persons of different races and ethnicities. Visit museums with exhibits about a range of cultures and religions. Discuss the experiences afterward.

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