This website, Raising Race Conscious Children, was recently brought to my attention, and I hope you can take a moment to check it out. One of their most recent blog posts, discusses the importance to talk explicitly to young children about race.
I would like to emphasize the importance to talk to young children about differences–all kinds of differences: race, religion, same-sex families, single parent families, families with adopted children, transgender persons, and so much more. Often, there is a misunderstanding that if parents do not discuss differences, then their children will not notice differences and will be “color-blind” or unaware of our difference from others.
However, children naturally at this age are trying to understand their world around them. They are developmentally in the stage of making classifications based on the world according to their own experiences. “Why doesn’t my friend have a Mommy?” “Why is her skin dark?” “Is that a man or a woman?” Whether we discuss it or not, children DO notice differences. If we can talk about difference as positive (and not a deficit) and be comfortable engaging in proactive conversations with our children, we are setting an example that difference is valued, welcomed, and not something to be silent about. In just noticing differences with our children, we are sending them the message that it’s okay for them to ask questions and talk about why a person, family, or holiday is different from their own experiences.