Why are we so bad at talking with children about skin tone and race?
If we don’t keep them in the dark, children will light up the world.”
This is the revelation that inspired this talk, which I shared at TEDx Charlotte (October 2017).
I share a few real life instances where people exhibit how horrible we are as a society at talking with children about race and skin tone. We’ve even resorted to promoting blindness — ‘colorblindess’ — that is, to avoid the complexities and nuances of the conversation. I then share insights from current research and my perspective and experience on how we can do better, much much better.
Here are a few of my favorite resources to help you grow your capacity for conscious, competent, courageous and creative conversations about skin tone and race with children.
- Bestselling author says we learn early not to bridge the racial divide: Beverly Tatum.
Books & media to help foster informed & healthy conversation
For Parents, Care-givers & Teachers
- Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn by Erin Winkler
- Raising Race Conscious Children: A Resource for talking about race with young children.
- What White Children Need to Know About Race by Ali Michael and Eleonora Bartoli (2014)
- Even Babies Discriminate: A Nurture Shock Excerpt. Bronson & Merryman. (2009)
- The Colors of Us
- Shades of People
- The Skin You Live In
- All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color / Todos los colores de nuestra peil: La historia de por que tenemos diferentes colores de piel
- Movies like Glory Road and Hairspray make good discussion prompts for older children. The themes are upbeat and relatable—sports in one and music and dancing in the other. The plots provide some historical context for talking about how unjust systems create injustice and disparities and how this plays out in our communities and relationships. Hidden Figures is another great movie for prompting informed discussion.
- A Young People’s History of the United States
- Lee & Low Books is a multicultural children’s book publisher whose books emphasize the richness of today’s culture.
High School & Adults
- The New Jim Crow
- Just Mercy
- White Rage
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria
- Toxic Inequality
RACE -The Power of an Illusion The full three-part series produced by California Newsreel investigates race in society, science and history. To access this documentary, you can it buy for $24.95 at newsreel.org, rent it on Vimeo. ($2.99 per episode, $4.99 for the entire series) or borrow or stream the series from your local library. You can also make use of the PBS Online Companion.