Early Childhood Race Chats – Preventative

Early childhood presents the opportunities for preventative race chats. Books are a great way to initiate discussions about race and ethnicity. In particular, start discussions that center around issues of exclusion or discrimination as well as fairness and acceptance of differences. You can use the experiences of the characters in the books as your guide. You can discuss why certain characters might exclude others. Or whether the treatment of one character was fair. For example, let’s imagine that your 4-year-old will be in school during Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month for the first time. In your home, you have not yet talked much about race or America’s racial history. How can you prepare your child for the information she might hear or learn about at school? One approach is to go to the library. Find an age-appropriate book about Civil Rights leaders. Read it together and talk about how White people and Black people were treated differently. It’s a good idea to ask your child to put herself in the shoes of the character that was excluded or treated unfairly. This can help her understand these ideas. For example, ask your child about a time when she felt different or excluded and how it felt. Allow your child to ask as many questions as she needs and be willing to answer these questions honestly. Taking the time to reflect on your own biases and privileges will make these conversations easier. An awareness of times when you may have acted on your own biases or were treated unfairly based on racial, gender, social class, or age issues can make it easier for you to understand or relate to your child’s experiences. It may also help your child understand or relate to yours.