Having Conversations about Race with Your Kids

I am no expert on race, and I will never claim to be an expert in racial issues in America. I am simply a mom who cares about injustice and strives to love my friends well. And I hope to provide a few resources for moms to be educated (even after Black History Month is over).

Because I have friends who are of different races and ethnicities, I think it’s important for me to take the time to understand their experience and the experiences of their ancestors in America (just like they make an effort to understand my experience as an immigrant).

raceWhy I think learning about racial injustice is important:

  • To love all of my friends by trying to understand their experience.
  • To be aware of the injustices that are happening in our own city, state, and country.
  • To know how to have educated and knowledgeable conversations with other White people.
  • To know how to pray for our country and the injustices others face daily.
  • To be an ally and a person of change wherever I have influence. 

Why I think it’s important to teach my child about racial injustice:

  • My Black friends are burdened with having conversations about race with their kids, so I should be, too. 
  • We have to be the change we want to see in the world and we have to raise our kids to be part of that change, too.
  • White kids are disproportionately unprepared to have conversations about diversity and race because they do not have the language for the history and reality of race relations in America. We need to set our kids up for success in a multi-racial, multi-cultural environment. 
  • We want to raise kind and compassionate human beings. 
  • What we say and even more importantly, what we DON’T say will negatively impact our children. If we don’t want our kids to make their own conclusions about race and other “taboo” subjects, we need to talk about them.

Being not racist or colorblind is not the goal. The goal is to be anti-racist and to actively participate in demolishing racist systems and ideals in our country and communities. And we have to start in our homes. We have to start with our families and more importantly, our kids. 

But first, mama, you need to start with yourself.

But where do you start? 

Before you go bombarding your Black friends with questions and opinions… Before you go to social media for the next #BlackLivesMatter post to re-share… Before you go to Twitter for the latest quick blurb on our racist American system…it’s important to educate yourself. 

Look for articles by Black writers, books about the Black experience in America or around the world, and podcasts and YouTube channels that break down the race conversation. There are so many resources out there, so please take advantage. 

Though no resource will ever take the place of a genuine, real, vulnerable, and uncomfortable conversation with your Black friends, this doesn’t mean that they need to be your educators, coaches, and mentors on all things race. Please let your friends be your friends, not your therapists on White guilt. 

As I have tried to educate myself, here are a few books that I’ve found helpful:

For moms who are short on time: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

This book amazed me. It’s a quick read—very anecdotal—but that doesn’t take away from how powerful and vulnerable Austin Channing Brown is through her writing. She writes about growing up Black, Christian, and female in a “diversity-obsessed” White America. Her stories are very painful and heartbreaking and also sadly, very common. I recommend this book to everyone and it’s a bonus that the author also lives in Detroit. 

For moms who love a long, complex novel: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I think stories, especially painful ones, are more digestible when told in the form of novels. Homegoing is an incredible story about a family that was torn apart during the slave trade. The book then follows the two sides of the family through generations as they live very separate but also intertwined lives. This is not a light read, but I know this book will pull at your heartstrings. 

For moms who want to grow: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is an incredible book written by the author for his adolescent son telling him about his own experience in the world as a Black man. I think if you have not done very much work in regards to your own experience with race and racism, this book might be too intense for you. It’s okay to admit that you’re not there yet! However, if you’re ready to challenge yourself and to go deeper in your understanding of racial issues in the US, invest your money (and your heart) into this book. 

For all moms: Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Written by a White mom who is also a professor on religion and ethics, this was the most practical and helpful book I’ve read on raising White anti-racist kids. Her approach to conversations with kids, teachers, friends, and extended family are so casual and compassionate while still thought-provoking. This book is extremely practical, so there is no excuse NOT to have these conversations after reading Raising White Kids. 

For moms with little kids: Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

You’d think that talking to your toddler about race is just unnecessary, but it’s not. At the very least, this book is for you, the parent, more than it is for them! I love how colorful and beautiful this book is, but even more, I love how simple they make the concepts while still using proper terminology and not “dumbing” it down for kids. Our kids are smart and we need to treat them like we think they are smart, too! Also, this is a good book just to have around. Though I might not be reading it daily with my toddler, it is a constant reminder in our home that we value anti-racism and we value this conversation enough to have it out on our shelf.

For moms of school age kids: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Being an immigrant and fairly “woke”, I thought I knew a good amount about racism in America. I had no idea. This book is so informative and educational while being a total page-turner. The author talks about topics like self-segregation, self-preservation, and the reluctance to discuss racial topics. I believe this is an amazing resource for parents with kids in middle and high school. 

For moms of teenagers: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I have a feeling that so many people have heard about this book or have already read it, but I think it’s a worthy mention. It’s a great novel with some very complex characters and lots of moral dilemmas. This would also be a great book to read with your teenager as it will strike up a lot of important conversations around prejudice and systemic injustice.

I know there are hundreds of other amazing books out there and a million more resources. But I did not set out to make an extensive list for you. These are just a couple books that have affected me, my relationships and the way I wish to parent my son. I hope this information begins a conversation and we will be able to share resources we have found helpful! (I definitely want to know yours, so comment below!)

For more information on discussing topics like race with children, we have created an in-depth resource. Check it out here: A Guide to Empowering Our Children to be Compassionate, Inclusive, and Antiracist.


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