Let’s Talk About Race: Creating Space to Talk About Race with Our Children

Jun 10 2020

The global outcry against racism we have all witnessed and participated in within the last few weeks has seen many conversations shift to the home and how we need to speak with our children about race.

But if it’s not a subject you’ve discussed in your home before, where do you begin?

This is simply a place to start and for many of us it will be the beginning of life-long learning. It will most likely be uncomfortable and it’s likely that we will make mistakes, but we need to own those mistakes and keep listening and learning.

As Christians, the best place to start is in the Word. The Bible says that ALL people are created in the image of God and loved by Him. Every person therefore has equal value and potential. (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:15, Galatians 3:28).

Before you get started:

  • Make sure you are in the right frame of mind to talk with your children about this. It has been an intensely emotional time for many families, so ensure that you have clarity and know where you want to take the discussion with your children.
  • Ensure the materials and resources you want to use to speak with them about race are age-appropriate and it’s a good idea to read or watch them first so you can anticipate any questions that make come up.
  • Limit the exposure to the current media for younger-aged children
  • For older age children (primary school and above), if they start asking questions, ask them what they know, what they’ve seen, how they feel about it and what they think they should do when they feel like something is unfair or someone is not being treated fairly?
  • With tweens and teenagers, consider watching movies and documentaries together and discuss it with them.

Stories that celebrate diversity, healthy identity and the beauty of humanity are a great way to start talking about race and helping kids understand their differences and also what unites them.

Reading these with your children will help to build empathy for others and open up a world of new conversations you can have with them that can draw you closer as a family.

Listed below are some helpful books and resources. (Please note that all content and resources listed are subject to viewer discretion. Please check the age restrictions and ratings on any media.)

BOOKS

Toddlers – Primary Age

  • He’s God the Whole World in His Hands, Kadir Nelson
  • God’s Very Good Ida, Trillia Newbell
  • ColourFull, Dorena Williamson
  • The Skin You Live In, Michael Tyler
  • All the Colors of Earth, Sheila Hamanaka
  • The Colours of Us, Karen Katz
  • Oh The Things I Can Be When I See Me, Valerie Coleman
  • The Undefeated, Kwame, Kadir Nelson
  • I am Enough, Grace Byers
  • I walk with Vanessa, Kerascoet
  • Something Happened in our Town, Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard
  • Let’s Talk About Race, Karen Barbour
  • Race Cars, Jenny Devenny
  • Antiracist Baby, Ibrahim X. Kendi
  • The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson

Little People Big Dreams

Featuring:

  • Rosa Parks
  • Martin Luther King Jr
  • Maya Angelou
  • Mother Teresa
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Anne Frank
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Mahatma Ghandi
  • Bruce Lee
  • Evonne Goolagong

Late Primary – Early Secondary

  • Ruby and the Booker Boys, Derrik Barnes
  • New Kid, Jerry Craft
  • Lost in a Long Line of Rebels, Lisa Lewis Tyre
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Janae Marks

Australian/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander:

  • Same but little bit diff’rent, Kylie Dunstan
  • Respect, Aunty Fay Muir, Sue Lawson, Lisa Kennedy
  • Finding our Heart, Thomas Mayor, Blak Douglas
  • Young Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe

For a more comprehensive list that covers books for children and young adults, the Coretta Scott King (wife of Martin Luther King Jr) Book Award is given each year to a book that demonstrates black culture and human rights.

Helpful Instagram Accounts:

@theconsciouskid

@wanderandwonder.studio have created a free download ‘Raising Little Allies-To-Be’; ‘an incomplete guide for parents and caregivers to begin conversations about race, privilege, bias, riots, activism, social injustice, diversity and inclusivity.’

For Youth and Young Adults

  • Common Sense (link) has good resources on teaching about hate speech including videos from youth and discussion topics. It is intended for schools but is available for families, etc. Sign up for free to the Common Sense website to access it.
  • A guide on how to be an effective ally
  • A collection of streaming videos to help teenagers educate themselves about race.
  • Two movies for adults and older age children to watch together (available on Netflix):
  • 13th is a documentary on race and mass incarceration;
  • When They See Us is a documentary about false accusation of black children.

Both are produced and directed by Ava DuVernay who is at the forefront of using film to increase awareness of racism.

Making space for discussions with your family about race and racism is critical and it’s never too early to begin. But it is not enough just to talk about it. As parents, we must model it in our own attitudes, behaviours and values. We must actively expose our children to different cultures and welcome families of other cultures into our homes and communities. This is the active work of what it means to be anti-racist and raise a generation who will no longer tolerate racism in their lives and their communities.