With the killing of George Floyd, and the protests and riots around the country, the deadly truth is that our country’s racist legacy prevails in the continuing abuse of Black people – over 150 years after slavery. We’ve seen the evidence, the discrimination, and the killings – over and over again. America may have abolished slavery, but Black people are still not free of racism.
For our children, learning about racial injustice is not just about the past. It’s also about today. The agenda of our EPA to increase air pollution everywhere, but especially in Black communities where one in five Black children are affected by asthma, over a million families live within a mile of oil and gas operations, and Black children go to schools located closer to heavily trafficked roads, is racist. It’s so common, there’s a name for it: environmental racism.
Racist stereotypes and bias begin at an alarmingly young age and are present way before children become teenagers. According to pediatricians Drs. Ashaunta Anderson and Jacqueline Dougé, these are the different developmental stages children experience regarding race:
- As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
- By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
- By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.
For parents, the riots and protests of the last two weeks provide a unique teachable moment. Kira Banks, a clinical psychologist who runs the Raising Equity website, which provides free videos and resources on how parents can fight racism to help their children understand it says we must be teaching our children now. But first, parents “…need to understand the history of racism and discrimination in America, they should do so, and then join us in raising our children to see and disrupt racism, and be the change we want to see.”
10 Anti-Racist Resources for Parents
- Teaching Tolerance created “Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice” from the perspective of parents as first teachers.
- Embrace Race provides a list of 31 children’s books that support conversations about race, racism, and resistance, and find more here from the New York Times.
- The Brown Bookshelf was designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers, with books with brown and black protagonists who deal at times with tough issues.
- Race Conscious shares 100 things you can say to your child to advance racial justice.
- Common Sense Media, a non-profit that rates movies, TV shows, books, apps and other media for parents and schools, curated a race and racism resource guide that includes media for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Black Lives Matter At School’s 2020 Curriculum Resource Guide includes elementary school level posters with age appropriate vocabulary and coloring books and activity books.
- American Academy of Pediatrics offers ways to help parents struggling with what to say about news events to children in “Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events.”
- Center for Racial Justice compiled a resource for talking about racism and radicalized violence with interviews and advice from experts.
- Children’s Alliance’s resource “Talking About Racism and Bias: Resources for Parents and Caregivers” includes dealing with hate speech and hate crimes.
- The National Association for the Education of Young Children shares a story of one kindergarten teacher’s work at addressing race and racism throughout a school year.
These conversations are crucial. And we can take them one step further: one of our strongest tools in holding our leaders accountable and protecting the best interests of all communities is voting.
As parents — and particularly for white parents — it’s our job to stand up to injustice and raise a generation who will do what is right and just for all people.