Racism has long been an issue in the U.S. Throughout history, people have been bullied, persecuted, harassed, and killed because of the color of their skin or their ethnic heritage. But racism isn’t always overt. It also affects the opportunities that marginalized people are offered. It affects how they are treated on a day-to-day basis; and it affects their mental health and physical well-being.
Talking about these issues, and coming up with concrete ways to address them, is long overdue. As a parent or caregiver, you may be wondering how to talk to your child about racism. You also may feel unsure exactly how to approach the topic or may feel concerned that you will say the wrong thing.
Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Racism
At this pivotal moment in history, the “racism talk” is not something you can skip with your children. Discussing instances of racial injustices as they come up in the news—and addressing the systemic issues that perpetuate them in the first place—has become a vital part of our children’s education.
The fact is, racial issues are a part of all of our lives. They are a part of our communities, our schools, our places of worship, and more. And we are all responsible for making sure that each and every other member of our community is treated with respect. Making this a reality starts with the conversations we have with our children, from their very earliest ages.
How to Approach the Topic
When it comes to talking about racism, being clear and straightforward is your best bet. You may think that speaking in vague terms will make it easier for your child to understand or absorb the information, but kids can understand these issues easier than you may think.
There are ‘softer’ approaches to speak with kids of younger ages about racism and police violence; however, don’t make it seem like it isn’t as large of a problem as it is. Don’t try to ‘dumb it down’—simply find other things similar to these real life situations or use softer language.
Being straightforward about what is happening from the onset means that these conversations will continue to be easier as time goes on. Like discussing sex or other difficult conversations you may have with your child, the conversation about racism is one that should be ongoing, starting when your child is young, and increasing in content as they get older. Having a clear, honest, and straightforward framework to work with will make each iteration of the conversation that much easier.