Building the Capacity for Color: Navigating Race/ism Conversations with Children

Pursuing Extraordinary Outcomes in Public Education National Conference

UNC Charlotte Center City

October 30, 2017

Presenters: Lucretia Carter Berry,, Tehia Starker Glass, UNC Charlotte

This presentation represents a university and community partnership of assisting parents to discuss race with their children.

/broun’ isədē/

  • Brown represents melanin. Ethnicity means “that which we have in common.”
  • We are all hues of brown.
  • We are family-focused and dedicated to advocacy, education, and support for racial healing and antiracism.


The Capacity for Color

Telling children, “ we don’t see color,” or “everyone is the same,” does not help them understand that race should not matter. In fact, it leaves them vulnerable to racial socialization. Researchers have found that to be effective, conversations with children about race have to be explicit and in terms that children understand. And when incorporated into family life and their school curriculum, informed and healthy conversations become normal.

  • 6m. Notice differences
  • 2.5 – 3y. Group based on differences (race, gender)
  • 3y. Black children choose White
  • 5y. Children see race as a major point of difference or distinction, even when it is not discussed
  • 7y. Children can accurately reflect social status bias and will make choices or judgments based on who they perceive as having more power or privilege
  • White children as young as 7y demonstrate that they believe Blacks experience less pain than Whites.
  • Even when kids are told that people are all the same, White kids continue to demonstrate stronger racial biases than children of other groups. (Schutts & Olsen, 2011)

We live in a hyper-racialized society where proficiency is needed. We need to normalize healthy and informed conversations about skin tone and race.

To Do:

Talk openly and explicitly. If you don’t teach them, someone else will! Talking empowers them. Not talking leads to complicit racism.

  • Narrow the white conversation gap
  • Have explicit conversation about race to improves racial attitudes across groups
  • Give context – teach about the country’s history of bias and discrimination
  • Diversify your life and library. Even slightly more exposure to other racial/ethnic groups, even through children’s books, helps to counteract bias and discrimination
    • rich diversity of our world.
    • feature positive representation and also cover themes of social justice.
    • authors are people of color
    • main protagonist is a person of color

Books & media to help foster informed & healthy conversation

For Parents, Care-givers & Teachers



Younger Children


High School & Adults



Helpful resources and publications are posted on our facebook page daily.  LIKE and FOLLOW to stay engaged.

What does the ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ mean?


Yes, it is a rich descriptive—a poetic tag line, but what does it actually mean?

It describes those of us who have recognized the destructive force rendered through race ideology and have decided to deny it leverage in our lives—to the best of our abilities. We know that in its very conception, race ideology was and remains divisive— designed to corrupt humanity to an unrecognizable, irrefutable, inconsolable and irreconcilable broken mess.

BUT we are a people empowered by the DIVINE with love, hope, faith and creativity!

Jefferson and his wife.

Jefferson (a white guy) described his father as a southern, Civil War enthusiast. Jefferson’s facial expressions gave us, his audience, permission to deduct that his father was an overt, proud racist. Post high school life experience left Jefferson with his own impressions about race that were different than those of his father. While attending a predominantly white university in Georgia, he joined a white fraternity and shared a brotherhood with young men who reflected his father’s perspective. BUT then Jefferson did something artful, beautiful and most of all intentional. He joined the African-American Student Association (AASA). He gave himself permission to be uncomfortable. He learned a lot. He forged relationships. He initiated a clothing drive for the homeless that created an opportunity for the brothers in his white fraternity to serve along side his brothers and sisters of AASA. Long after Jefferson graduated, the collaboration between the two groups occurs annually.

Jill and her family
Jill and her family

For almost twenty years, Jill (a black woman) has been a part of the white church she married into.  It was the church that her husband’s family had attended for generations. It sincerely reflected the socially and racially segregated community in which it was established in 1872. As the only black parishioner, most likely, Jill’s was the only heart longing for her church to be a hospitable and inclusive place for all people–not just white people. Jill prayed. Jill tried to leave. As if supernaturally anchored, Jill was compelled to stay. She continued to pray. Following the Charleston Nine massacre, Jill prompted, pushed and strongly encouraged her pastor to move forward differently and contribute to healing where race had secured such a cavernous breach among churches. Since then, Jill, her pastor and their church hold monthly reconciliation parties with a local African Methodist Episcopal church. As one, they assemble, break bread, worship, share, listen and talk about racial reconciliation. To witness the sights, sounds, feelings, and fragrance of these gatherings is to partake in the art and beauty of a finely crafted masterpiece.

Like so many of us in our Brownicity community, Jefferson and Jill intentionally do the hard work of tearing down walls, forging new paths, creating new stories, engaging in change—however uncomfortable and inconvenient.  The ‘art and beauty of living and loving beyond race’ integrates love, hope, creativity, passion, and commitment. We dare to believe that we can craft a more beautiful world for our children and then we do the work — in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, wherever we have access and influence. 

As you move forward, consider how you will partake in the art and beauty of living and loving beyond race. How will you or how do you commit, engage, and advocate? Please share your stories.

Church Reconciliation Party
Church Reconciliation Party
Church Reconciliation Party
Church Reconciliation Party
Church Reconciliation Party