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Teaching about racism



There’s a rift in how ‘The Talk’ occurs

racism, kids, families, teaching

How do we talk to our children about America’s history, and present problems with racism?

One things for certain: The answer depends on who your kids are and what they need right now.

Dr. Jeff Lee has written on the website Seattle’sChild, “If your children aren’t white, talking about racism isn’t just any talk, it’s The Talk. You’ve been thinking about it since they were born. How do you tell them that some people will fear them, hate them, hurt them — because of the color of their hair and skin, or the shape of their eyes? If your kids are Black, especially if they’re boys, you’re wondering how to tell them not to walk through certain white neighborhoods, not to wear a hoodie after dark, not to run or reach into their pockets when the police are there.”

If your kids are white, it’s a different talk. “How do you help them understand privilege, institutionalized racism and implicit bias? How do you tell them that they are part owners in a legacy of oppression and violence that began long before they were born?” Dr. Lee continues. “Some parents wonder if they should talk about race at all.

He goes on to stress that race, the way our culture defines it, has no scientific basis and is arbitrary. Nevertheless, it is serious because it effects lives, as do other human constructs including nationality, “So yes, we need to talk about racism. It’s a moral issue, just like lying and cheating and stealing — a critical piece of any child’s education about right and wrong.

Dr. Lee suggests that one take care NOT to overload your child, and to work with their growing sense of “us” versus “them.” And to look for real ways of expanding their sense of community.

In a broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered, the focus was broadened to include petitions throughout the country in support of creating anti-racist education. Travis Bristol, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Berkeley, was heard saying that for students to receive an anti-racist education, teachers need better training and students need more diverse teachers.

And at The Hill, three academics who specialize in the teaching of racism  David Chae of Auburn University, Leoandra Onnie Rogers at Northwestern University, and Tiffany Yip of Fordham University – have pointed out how, “among white respondents, 73 percent said their parents or caregivers ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ talked with them about racial differences, and 65 percent said their families ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ talked to them about racism.

“White children learn from their parents’ silence. Children may view differences that are more often talked about, such as those around gender, as being important. They may interpret the dearth of conversations on race to mean that it is less important, doesn’t matter, or should be ignored,” The Hill piece concludes. “We found that those who had conversations about racism with their parents while growing up had a greater awareness of white racial privilege and institutional racism. Perhaps even more telling — of those who were parented about racism at least ‘on occasion,’ 91 percent had discussions about racism with their own children... Open dialogue about racism can be part of a larger comprehensive, intergenerational and societal movement to eliminate racism and its consequences. These conversations are not about instilling white guilt, but rather providing children with the tools to become strong anti-racist partners.”




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