Racism and Children: Read, Talk About What You Read

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Kids are home from school (still) and the vastness of summertime stretches before us filling our vision of what that once meant, and how, due to the pandemic and to overdue showcased racial inequalities in our lives, those possibilities have forever changed.

I recently read, with a strong measure of personal embarrassment and regret, a book by Ibram X. Kendi called How to Be an AntiRacist. The book documents Mr. Kendi’s path from being an angry and politically active black man to being an increasingly open and welcoming antiracist.Models

As so many books have, Kendi’s book became my mirror, having grown up in an almost completely white suburb in the Midwest, and having lived into retirement with a higher non-racist opinion of myself than I ever deserved.

As a result of this small investment in my continuing development as a human being, I have been consuming carefully selected authoritative information and opinion pieces from experts, journalists and historians.

For example, one regular feature writer for The New York Times, Jessica Grose, offered up a helpful piece for parents of any race who are hoping to provide their children with a positive and pro-active approach to growing up aware of and honoring the cultures and contributions of other’s races as well as their own. It includes a brief collection of books for children that offer those from various racial backgrounds ideas about how to talk with children about racism and protests.

PrivilegeThe New York Times also recently published a discussion with experts on race relations for children. They offered guidance on engaging children with truths about race, the damage we incur from race-based relationships and conflict, America’s destructive history of racism and guiding their growth into becoming better Americans than I ever was. Critical in those parent and child conversations is an acknowledgement and nurturing of children’s predictable emotional responses to unfairness and unjust treatment of themselves or others, and that we are all learning how to abandon such behavior and stop looking the other way when we encounter it.

If you are interested in moving beyond your life’s negative experiences with racism, I invite you to read Not Validatedthese short articles and to explore and share the books for children shared in them. Of critical importance is reading books about racial intolerance and bigotry, as well as reading books about the too-often-overlooked beauty and dignity of lives in our world’s and our country’s many cultures and races.

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