Did you realize that as early as 3 years old, kids are classifying people based on their appearances?
That’s according to a video made by The Atlantic -- one of the best things online we’ve found, by the way, when it comes to children and introducing them to, or continuing the conversation, about race.
“The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all,” author Jemar Tisby says in the video. “Talking to kids about race needs to happen early, often, and honestly.”
Editor’s note: We published this article in February of this year, but have made some small updates in light of recent events.
George Floyd, a black man, died in police custody this week in Minnesota after a bystander’s video showed Floyd pleading that he could not breathe as a white officer knelt on his neck.
And this was amid ongoing outrage over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot to death in late February in Georgia after a white father and son pursued the 25-year-old black man they had spotted running in their subdivision. More than two months passed before charges were brought.
Also this week, a woman in New York City’s Central Park went viral for calling the police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog. “There’s an African-American man. He’s recording me and threatening me and my dog,” Amy Cooper claimed. The video doesn’t show the man threatening Cooper. The woman repeatedly identified the man by his race in her 911 call, in which she demands they “send the cops immediately.”
So, back to that talk you’re going to have with your kids: Not sure where to start?
The video, again, has some really good ideas. Of course, it will depend on how old your children are, and several other factors -- for example, how diverse is the place where you live?
To open the conversation, you could say something like, “How boring would it be to have a crayon box made up of all the same colors?”
The video author, Tisby, recommended using Dr. Seuss books, pop culture references or animated movies -- you can even get creative with it! -- to jump-start the talk.
But if you’re using a movie, don’t just hit the play button and leave the room.
Use the movie as a guide. Read about the plot beforehand, or watch it in advance, so that you can think ahead about what’s going to come up, and figure out some questions to ask your son or daughter as it progresses.
Tisby also talks about experiential learning: for example, taking your kids out in your own city. You know those historical markers you sometimes see? Take a minute to read them and see why these places are considered historical sites in the first place. Look them up -- together even, with your child. Work to learn more and do more. Use the resources around you. That’s what creates a memorable learning experience.
When it comes to race, diversity and justice, it’s important to show why these issues are so important.
And from there, don’t let the conversation be a one-time thing. Continue learning and growing together.