The rapidly escalating, racially-charged events in the US and around the world are shedding light on a harsh truth that many prefer to ignore. Sure, the US elected Obama … twice; and social media is taking a stand against police brutality; it’s even reported that the economy is in recovery. So, how do we explain the steady tripling of the US wealth gap between whites and blacks in the past 25 years (Brandeis University)? That’s right, tripled.
According to CNN Money, “A typical black household has accumulated less than one-tenth of the wealth of a typical white one. And it’s only getting worse.” And that’s just the States, what about the ongoing racial crises raging across the world? Immigration, wars, equal education, access to medicine, food and water … What’s going on here? This is the world our kids will inherit. Therefore, how do we address the issue of race at home?
Where do our kids fit into all of this?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s dream is still something we aspire to. And as parents raising the next generation responsible for getting us all closer to that dream, we have to ask the BIG QUESTIONS.
Are we and/or society teaching children to discriminate? Or is racial bias a human condition?
The short answer: Kids being “colorblind” is a myth. In fact, studies have found babies as young as six months can recognize different races from their own. Isn’t that remarkable?
“Research clearly shows that children not only recognize race from a very young age, but also develop racial biases by ages three to five that do not necessarily resemble the racial attitudes of adults in their lives.” (Winkler, 2009)
How to talk to kids about race
Most parents assume not talking about race, or the apparently colorblind attitude of children, is a good thing. It’s more effective, however, to talk about it directly and early on before distorted biases set in. In preschool director Shannon Nagy’s experience, “Young children are hard-wired in their brains to notice difference and to categorize it. So it is vital during early childhood to put some context around making sense of differences.”
If they ask you questions about a natural situation such as a movie, book, or relationship, use that. You can also seek out materials they are comfortable with to address the issue (e.g., age-appropriate books or videos featuring a familiar character). The important thing is you don’t avoid the issue and you utilize what they are comfortable with as natural teaching moments for talking about race and tolerance.
The racial zeitgeist is indeed in need of real change. And effective parents can influence the direction it takes.
“Children are going to be drawing their own conclusions anyway. So it is best to try and influence those conclusions now.” ~Shannon Nagy