In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I thought I would tackle the topic of raising racially sensitive kid. I know I can only scratch the surface in a blog post, but I’ll give it my best shot!
Below are three strategies, each followed by some questions you can ask yourself to gauge where YOU are with raising a racially sensitive child, as well as some resources that can help you out.
Talk About Race
Long gone are the days where colorblind is the goal. Rather, the goal is to raise children who appreciate and understand diversity and aren’t ignorant to the realities of racism, so that they can play a role in fighting against it. That means we must be willing to have conversations about race with our kids and, as parents, we may need to initiate those conversations. Research has shown time and again that our children notice differences, beginning in the preschool years. If we don’t talk about differences openly, they are going to jump to their own conclusions and be more susceptible to various stereotypes that they encounter in the world.
We need to give our kids permission to ask questions and make observations, and give them tools to think critically about what they see and learn. We need to actively talk about differences with them, framing differences as something to be celebrated rather than feared. By initiating conversations, we teach children that they can talk about race, culture, and what it all means with us, they can ask us questions, and we won’t shush them if they bring something up.
- When is the last time I talked with my kids about diversity, differences, or race?
- How do I respond when my children bring up something race-related?
- Do I point out to my kids when people of different races or cultures are portrayed in stereotypical ways (e.g., in books and on tv), so they can become “critical consumers” of these stereotypes?
- Using Jelly Beans to Talk About Diversity on Bicultural Mama
- Talk About Diversity Using Playdough on BonBon Break
- A Class Lesson About Privilege on Bored Panda
- What I Want My Children To Know About Being White in America on Mommy Means It
- Ron’s Big Mission (book and discussion questions), right here
Be Intentional About Exposing Kids To Diversity
The books, movies, television shows, and toys surrounding our kids reflect back to them their community and culture. The presence – or lack – of certain races and cultures speaks volumes about who matters and who doesn’t. In addition, exposing kids to diversity through media is one way to increase their comfort, familiarity, and understanding of people who are different from themselves.
Also, ensure they have opportunities to interact in real life with people from a variety of backgrounds. This might mean going to festivals or visiting neighborhoods or communities outside your own, if you don’t live in a diverse neighborhood. Think about enrolling them in activities where they can interact with peers from different backgrounds. For instance, our family has made a point of enrolling our kids in activities that are a little farther away from where we live, but where we know they will be with a much more diverse of peers.
- Take a look at the books in your family library. Do you have books that depict characters of races and cultures different than your own? How many? And, do you have books that not only teach about different cultures, civil rights, race, etc., but also show characters of different backgrounds just being people?
- Think about the activities your children are involved in, their school, your place of worship (if you have one). Do your kids have the opportunity to interact with and get to know kids of different races?
- Do your kids have diverse dolls or action figures, or are they all white?
- Check out my aStore on Amazon to find books, toys, etc. (Use the categories to navigate.)
- Multicultural Books for Kids – a whole Pinterest board from Pragmatic Mom. Check out her website too.
- Check out the Multiracial Resource Page right here on Musing Momma
Keep Doing The Work Yourself
To educate our children effectively and be comfortable doing so, we need to seek our information and keep learning ourselves. We have to be aware of our own biases and prejudices. Find ways to enhance your own understanding of racism, how it manifests, and what you can do to change things.
- Think about the magazines, newspapers, and websites you read on a regular basis. Are any of them focused on an audience with a background different than your own? For example, do any of them write primarily for African-Americans, Latinos, or Muslims? If not, can you pick one to read and do so with an attitude of just listening and learning?
Resources – add some new websites to your reading list
- BlogHer – the Race & Class page
- 18 Million Rising
- My Brown Baby
- Musing Momma! (haha – you knew I was going to include myself, didn’t you?!) Check out my somewhat monthly round-up of posts from around the web that touch on issues of race and parenting.
- Check out the MTV series Decoded on Youtube
- What other sites would you add?