Recent events, protests, and news stories are sparking questions and conversations from children about races, racial bias, and racial equality. Nowadays, more parents are focusing on raising anti-racist children and instilling an anti-racist view in their children.
But here’s the thing:
Children are like sponges, they soak up everything they see and hear, including differences in races.
From an early age, children notice the differences in color, heritage, looks, and characters in other people.
As parents, it is our responsibility to raise children we are proud of, yet as you probably already know… that is easier said than done.
However, being anti-racist is not simply noticing differences, it’s having set beliefs around that difference. These judgments, positive or negative, develop over time, and believe it or not start as young as newborns.
6-months: With 6-months, babies notice the difference in dark- and light-skinned people. They might not think much further beyond the different shades of the skin tone. Yet newborns notice that there is a difference between different people.
2-4 years: At this time in life, children develop an internal racial bias. They ask lots of questions regarding how other people look and act, as they are exploring and learning about their surroundings. This is the prime time to start introducing your child to all the beautiful races out there in the world.
12 years: By this age, most children will have developed their own set of beliefs which they will carry with them throughout their life. Depending on their experiences, how they are raised, and what they have seen and heard, they will have grown roots in their beliefs.
Now comes the juicy question, “what can be done to help?” and “what have YOU done so far?”
Below are 6 ways you can help raise anti-racist children.
1. Talk to your Children about Race and Anti-Racism
The biggest thing to help promote anti-racism is talking to your children. This can start from a very young age, basically as soon as you notice your child paying interest in racial differences.
In “black” households, parents tend to talk more on the importance of race in society, how to deal with any bias, and about racial equality between people.
But well-meaning “white” parents are less likely to bring up these topics. They try to shield children from thinking about racial bias.
This often leads to a vacuum effect. Children then start absorbing the biases around them, often in ways that counteract to the parents’ own values.
The “colorblind” method is also often used. Even if reading books that included children of various races, most parents avoid talking or pointing out the races. They wanted to show their children that if they don’t point out anything, there is no difference, hence “colorblind”. Naturally parents do this in an effort to help children see all people the same and help keep an anti-racist mindset.
This does exactly the opposite. Using the “colorblind” method with your children does not answer their questions and give them reasoning to why others are different and have the same rights as others.
Here are some examples of how to talk to your children of various ages:
Preschool: At this time, children start asking questions about other people. Why they look different, act different, sit in a wheelchair, or even about what they are wearing.
If your child points out someone in the store that is a different skin tone, respond with, “It’s so wonderful how we are all different, yet are the same people inside.”
Comparing your skin tone and that of your child’s and talking about how each person is lighter or darker, even in one family will help children realize that even they too are different and unique, regardless of skin color.
Gradeschool: At this age, children ask more in-depth questions about the looks, actions, and values of other people. At this time, it is best to openly talk about racial bias, being anti-racist, and stereotypes around that racism. Point it out in books, in the news, or in movies, and talk about how the color of skin does not determine who we are, rather our choices and actions.
2. Model Combating Racial Bias
Most parents feel uncomfortable talking to their children about race as they have not built any connections with people from other racial groups. This creates something like a psychological barrier to discussing race.
Overcoming your own discomfort and modeling racial equality to children will help young children exhibit a less negative bias towards others.
This can be as simple as having a conversation with a different mother at the playground. Your child will see you interacting with them and be more likely to interact with other children as well.
3. Encourage Cross-group Friendships
Cross-race friendships among children and adults are the easiest and fastest way to help decrease prejudice.
Children who have cross-race friendships were more likely to see race as simply a difference in color. They were also more likely to view racial differences in a positive manner.
Organizing play dates with other children, offering rides, and even letting children go to integrated or diverse schools, helps create opportunities for cross-group friendships to form and flourish.
Cultivating cross-group friendships yourself helps your child become more comfortable around other races. Thus making it more likely that they too will create some other friendships.
4. Expose your Child to other Races
Protecting your child from other races all together might seem like the natural thing to do to help them not form a racial bias. However, it does not allow them to learn and grow their own set of beliefs.
Exposing them to other races and cultures through travel, food, books, movies, media, and more will help your child become more familiar and interested in the world around them. This will provide ample opportunity to talk to your children about other races.
5. Read Anti-Racist Books
Sparking conversations about race may be hard and uncomfortable, especially when your children are still too young to fully understand.
Books have a way of opening up the child’s mind to new concepts and spark conversations on important topics.
Here is an amazing collection of books (all from amazon!) that help spark these conversations. Reading these books will give your child a broader and deeper understanding of races and racial equality.
6. Encourage Anti-Racist Toys
Another way to expose your child to different races is to provide toys that do so. Companies such as Barbie or LEGO, have made an effort to provide figurines in other races as well.
Even something as simple as doing a coloring page and coloring your person a different color, will model to your child that you include other races in this household.
There are lots of multicultural toys available on amazon.com or on other networks. Be sure to take a look around!
I have developed my own FREE memory game built around the different races of the world. Fill out this short form and it will be sent to your email and you are set to get started!
As parents, we do our best to help our children have an anti-racist mindset and develop into adults we are proud of. Yet this is hard, and most of the time we feel like we are failing. Doing our best, talking to our children, reading books, and being a role model all play a crucial role in raising anti-racist children.
What are the things you have done to help deal with racial bias in your household? I’d love to hear from you.
Make sure to share this post with friends if you found it helpful!
Until next time,