Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Conversations with Young Kids about Race

This was the topic of a workshop I attended recently.  I drove a ways to attend it, but made it a priority.  Why?
  • I've read the research that tells me I need to TALK to my kids about race.  "Everyone is made special by God" is not enough.  Putting them in diverse environments is not enough.  Research shows that these things will have minimal or even negative impact if not accompanied by conversation with adults about race.
  • My kids talk about race.  Cricket and Rhinoceros pointed out skin color differences now and then.  Dinosaur has asked questions about segregation and discrimination.  He also caught me completely off-guard with one question.  He was talking about bullies at school and I told a story about being bullied.  He asked, "Did the bully have brown skin?"  And then I connected that he had called Cricket a bully (despite being half his age and size).  Had he somehow internalized that people with brown skin are mean or bad?  And if so, what do I need to do and how?
So, I went to the workshop and it further solidified what I mentioned above: we need to talk to kids about race.  A lot of background was given, unfortunately much of it repetitive for me because I've attended extensive diversity trainings through my education, jobs, and just by my own choice.  Thinking about internalized oppression and internalized privilege was interesting, and did help me see that I'm watching out for different things in my white kids and my kids of color.  The actual part discussing HOW we talk to kids was way too short.  But it did still give me some ideas and action steps.
  • Use puppets to talk about skin color and differences.  I'm thinking I need to pick up a set of puppets with different colors of skin.
  • Use skin tone crayons to talk about skin color and differences.
  • Watch how I react when questions catch me off-guard.  I think my responses so far to some "yikes" statements or questions have been okay, but I know I probably get a bit of a too fast, too high-pitched voice.  And I need to add that it's okay to talk with me about skin color and any questions they have.
  • Gather more toys and books representative of different colors of skin.  Yes, I bought Cricket dolls that looked like her.  But they left with her.  Why didn't I just have them in the first place?
  • Do my own research on talking with elementary kids.  The workshop did not address this and this is where I see some of the most challenging issues.  How do I talk about racism and the reality of discrimination?  How do I bring up that if a person fits a stereotype, that does not mean that the stereotype is valid?
We're a work in progress around here in anti-racism.  Any resources or suggestions are appreciated!

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