Starting Points to Talk to Kids about Race and Systemic Racism

June 08, 2020

We all want a better world for our children. Today, we have been given the opportunity create the path towards that better world. With the black lives matter movement growing and thriving, we can create a better future by not only educating ourselves but also our children in this incredible movement.  

It is hard to know where to start, especially if your children are on the younger side.  Below is a compilation of a few starting points for teaching yourself and your children about the movement.

TALK

A great first step is to just start the conversation.  These conversations will be difficult and uncomfortable, but that's okay.  Important conversations are not always easy, so embrace the challenge and know that sometimes mistakes will be made.  Making mistakes means that you're putting in the effort and it's through those mistakes that you can learn and grow.  

There are many resources online specifically tailored to conversations with children about the black lives matter movement and about Black History and culture in general. We’ve linked some of our favorites at the bottom of this section to get started with.

If you’re still struggling to start the conversation, experts suggest letting your kids begin. Create a space where they can ask any questions they may have and answer them to the best of your ability. Have a search engine or resource ready to find any answers you may not know. It may surprise you how much you can learn from the questions of you child!

Raising Anti-Racist Children  |  Kid-Friendly Language to Help Kids Grasp the Concept of Black Lives Matter  |  "What do I Tell My Kids?" Experts' Advice on Discussing Black Lives Matter with your Kids  |  Important Lessons to Teach Our Kids 

DO

Sullivan, who has a doctorate in developmental psychology, says "Parents should also ensure they are practicing the kind of behavior they would want their kids to show when they grow up: being kind, appreciative of diversity and respectful of all people." This sounds easy enough, but as parents we all know this is easier said than done. 

The first step to teaching is by doing and being able to evaluate yourself. Are you inadvertently engaging in behavior that could hinder a message of equality? This is one of the hardest tasks to undertake and may take some intense self evaluation. Whether it's an unconscious or unexamined privilege or even not having the knowledge we need... these behaviors can be changed and children will benefit immeasurably. 

Because we know this can be such a hard task, we've used the help of some online resources as a guide:

How to Check your Privilege  |  Check your Privilege Challenge  | "Check your Privilege" Used to Annoy Me. Now I Get It

READ

Educating ourselves in a time like this is more important than ever, especially with little ones that we are responsible for. Thankfully, finding articles and books to educate ourselves is a relatively easy task - Finding material for little ones that take on issues in a way they can understand is harder to find.  Luckily, there are also a lot of resources online to help with this.  Below are some books for young children that can help teach the importance of equality.

ABCs of Equality

  • "Written by two mothers and educators — one black, one white — The ABCs of Diversity equips parents, teachers, and community leaders to address children of all ages on complicated topics of race, gender, class, religion, political affiliation, ability, nationality, and sexual orientation."

Something Happened in Our Town

  • "This book follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives."

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro sit-ins

  • "In 1960 Greensboro, North Carolina, four young men protested racial segregation with a sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter. This picture book recounts the story from the perspective of a young black girl."

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

  • "This book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations..."

WATCH

Whether it’s a documentary or something that can teach your little ones about Black history in a kid-friendly way, there are plenty of movies that celebrate diversity to choose from. Check out the list below based on rating for you and your kids:

Rated G: 

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009)

  • "Set in 1926 New Orleans, the film tells the story of a hardworking waitress named Tiana who dreams of opening her own restaurant. After kissing a prince who has been turned into a frog by an evil sorcerer, Tiana becomes a frog herself and must find a way to turn back into a human before it is too late."

The Color of Friendship (2000)

  • "This movie showcases the love of cultures no matter who you are or what you believe we are all human and need to love and embrace each other. No matter the color or background everyone can still get along and even become the best of friends."

Rated PG:

Hidden Figures (2016)

  • "Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes."

Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

  • "The inspirational story of Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), an eleven-year-old girl from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother Tanya (Angela Bassett), Akeelah enters various spelling contests."

Remember the Titans (2002)

  • "A Black and a White high school are closed and the students sent to T.C. Williams High School under federal mandate to integrate. The year is seen through the eyes of the football team where the man hired to coach the Black school is made head coach over the highly successful white coach."

Hairspray (2007)

  • "In 1960s Baltimore, dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) auditions for a spot on "The Corny Collins Show" and wins. She becomes an overnight celebrity, a trendsetter in dance, fun and fashion. Perhaps her new status as a teen sensation is enough to topple Corny's reigning dance queen and bring racial integration to the show."

Rated PG-13:

Selma (2014)

  • "A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965."

When They See Us (TV mini series rated TV-MA)

  • "Five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they're falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story."

Just Mercy (2019)

  • "World-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson works to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner."

Rated R:

13th (2016)

  • "A documentary about the weighty topic of mass incarceration. The film makes the case that the American criminal justice system really serves as a strategy to control black and brown people."

Do the Right Thing (1989)

  • "On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence."

Moonlight (2016)

  • "This Academy Award-winning picture shows the grief and trauma of black men through an entirely different lens than police brutality while also highlighting the black LGBTQ community."



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