“We must acknowledge — with eyes and minds wide open — the world as it is if we want to change it.” –Charles Blow, New York Times
The primary purpose of Raising Race Conscious Children is to support parents and teachers who are trying to talk about race and diversity with young children. The goal of these conversations is to prepare young people to work toward racial justice.
Each post models conversations that are transparent, concrete, and non-judgmental. Many of these conversations are geared specifically toward White people but the strategies discussed may be helpful for all. Additional issues will be addressed that often intersect with race including class, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, etc.
Raising Race Conscious Children’s Assumptions:
Talking about race does not reinforce racism.
Race is a social construct—but it is also a lived reality.
A key premise of this blog is that naming race (and other social realities) can support people to be race conscious (as opposed to “color blind”). In their book, Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman cite research by Brigitte Vittrup that shows talking explicitly about race with children creates more positive attitudes about people of different races.
Adults often express the fear of “pointing out” race to their children. But research widely acknowledges that infants as young as six months old can categorize by race. For more information regarding this research, see “Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race.” and/or Jennifer Harvey’s HuffPost article.
By using explicit language such as brown/peach or Black/White, we can become race-conscious. Color-blindness ignores the reality of racism. In contrast, race-consciousness acknowledges racism. This is an essential first step if our children are to challenge and change this reality.
Naming race is the main strategy in the workshops run in association with Raising Race Conscious Children, in which participants practice naming race in response to a variety of visual prompts. Ali Michael, in her new book Raising Race Questions, asserts that naming race “involves breaking the unwritten standard of behavior in White culture that says we do not name race” and that naming race is an “effective way to challenge Whiteness as the default, unnamed race, and to bring race into ordinary daily conversations.”
We can start talking about race even if we don’t have all the answers. We can start talking about race even if we are afraid we will say the wrong thing. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes—that’s a part of the process. But if we commit to collectively trying to talk about race with young children, we can lean on one another for support as we, together, envision a world where we actively challenge racism each and every day. It starts one conversation at a time.