Motherhood

Raising Race-Conscious Children

Raising Race-Conscious Children

As a mother, I’ve always wanted my children be kind to everyone and accept people without biases or stereotypes. I figured that by being “colorblind,” or not calling attention to race, I was showing them that everyone was equal. But then I read a Washington Post article that explained that a colorblind approach may actually do more harm than good. To further educate myself, I spoke to Lori Taliaferro Riddick and Sachi Feris from the fantastic site Raising Race-Conscious Children, and here’s what they told me…

Lori identifies as black/biracial/multi-racial, and Sachi is a white Jewish woman of Russian, Polish, Lebanese, Syrian and Cuban descent. They each have two children.


ON NAMING RACE

Sachi: Parents can be so nervous of making a mistake that they avoid conversations about race. They make an assumption that the topic hasn’t come up for their kids yet. But that’s not true. It’s easier to imagine that kids aren’t seeing things we aren’t comfortable with, versus that they’re observing the world around them with a higher level of accuracy than we notice or want them to.

When reading a children’s book, you might say, “I see a picture here and it has three little girls and one has pale skin, and we call that white, and we’re white, too, and there’s another little girl with brown skin.” We’re just saying the words, just like we’re saying the sky is blue. Ultimately, before you can teach more higher level critical thinking, you have have this language in your toolbox.

Lori: With very young children we often point out the colors of buses, fire trucks and grass, as we teach them about the world. We’re naming all these things, but we’re not talking about people’s colors. In some ways, it’s really odd that there’s this whole description that we’re not addressing. It teaches kids that race is not okay to talk about. When parents are silent, children make up their own stories as to why.

Sachi: Parents often ask which words they should use to describe skin tones. We advocate for using both types of words — actual skin tones (like “brown” or “peach”) is more descriptive and more accurate to what we actually see; but I use the words “white” and “black” even though it is a social construct just to break it down for my children. If I don’t use those words, it’s harder to talk in a larger way about race in our society.

Lori: Some parents will say, “I don’t want to mention that someone’s black,” and I say, “Black people aren’t upset that they’re black.” I think it’s important to dispel that idea.

ON STARTING A LARGER CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE

Sachi: As a white woman, I had never heard the term “white privilege” until I got to college. I don’t want my children to learn at 18 that white privilege exists and is very real. I want them to understand that as children. It’s hard for them to understand they’re little people who can make a difference in the world and their immediate lives if they don’t have the awareness to talk about it.

We don’t expect any family to have their first conversation on race or racial justice when another tragic media story comes up about the police and a black person. That’s not the place that anyone can start if they haven’t been building vocabulary and comfort and confidence before then.

Black Lives Matter was a tangible and easily accessible place to engage a young person. I might say to my children: “We live in a world that’s unfair. People are not treated the same all the time, and that has to do with how we look sometimes. People who are white don’t have to worry about this, but people who are black do sometimes. We’re treated differently based on our skin tone; we don’t want the world to be like that, and it’s important to us to stand up to this. We don’t want to live in a world where people who are black aren’t safe.” The concept of fairness and unfairness is a very tangible thing for a three- or four-year-old!

I’m organizing a small gathering with some neighbors to make Black Lives Matter shirts with fabric markers, and window signs, in honor of Wear Out the Silence. For me, this is a concrete way to get my children in dismantling white privilege in however so small a way.

ON CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Sachi: With books about race, there are two types: a diverse cast of characters that’s sort of the point of the book [like Everywhere Babies], and our goal there is to name race. And then there are books that talk directly — Let’s Talk about Race by Julius Lester or The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.

Lori: It’s also important to have books that have characters of color and yet aren’t about race — to normalize the idea that that’s enough. [There was a great Slate post about this, too.] These stories of everyday people are worth telling. For example, Ezra Jack Keats books are wonderful. [Here are more children’s books with characters of color.)

People Colors Crayons also allow students from different colors to represent themselves and others in their artwork in a way that traditional color schemes did not. They’re useful in supporting students’ exploration of race and color. Also having a diverse set of toys — both black and white dolls, for example.

ON EVERYDAY CONVERSATIONS

Sachi: My daughter knows she’s white. I’m not sure when I knew I was white, not when I was four. It’s not like it’s this rigorous thing where you’re doing something wrong if you don’t talk about race every day, but the more experience I’ve gained as a parent, the more of a daily experience it is for me. If I walk by the basketball court by my house and see that most of the kids playing that day are brown-skinned boys, if I don’t break it down and say some days we see a more interracial group and sometimes we see girls playing, then I am letting my child see that stereotype every day.

ON SEEKING OUT A DIVERSE COMMUNITY

Lori: Having a diverse friend group is important, as much as it’s possible. Of course, we work with some folks who are just in homogenous neighborhoods and that makes it difficult. Interaction helps children, in particular, break down biases they would have otherwise believed. We might join a soccer leagues or swim team that is more diverse. Try to find a church with people who aren’t the same color as you. There are opportunities to do things that are more integrated – there’s value in seeking them out, if that’s important to you. 


More posts by Lori and Sachi:

* How to Ask Questions About Differences.

* “Is That Your Mom?”

* Why I Use the Words “Black” and “White” Versus “Brown” and “Peach”

More great articles:

* Children Are Not Colorblind

* How Silence Can Breed Prejudice (This quote jumped out at me: “Silence about race removes the opportunity for children to learn about diversity from their parents and puts it in the hands of media and misinformed peers. Television, movies and video games are full of stereotypes, and over time children pick up on these. They see blacks portrayed as criminals, Hispanics as uneducated service workers, Asians as unassimilated foreigners, and whites as powerful CEOs. Without discussion about the errors in these portrayals and a conscious effort to expose them to counter-stereotypical examples, children will unwittingly adopt these images as pieces of evidence of how the world is supposed to be, and these pieces become a breeding ground for prejudice.”)

Raising Race-Conscious Children

Lori and Sachi

Thoughts? How do you talk about race with your children? Do you have any other ideas or suggestions? Thank you so much.

P.S. 5 books that teach kids kindness, and children’s books with characters of color.

(Illustration by Erin Jang for Cup of Jo.)

  1. I’m coming across this post way after the fact, but really appreciate another white mama working on this and bringing into the larger conversations about home and parenting. Thanks for your work!

  2. Thank you for connecting us to Lori and Sachi. These ideas are simple and practical. They truly break down the huge, controversial topic of race in America into terms we can easily use with kiddos. Thank you!

  3. Eileen says...

    I am so glad you wrote about this. I too thought that not pointing out race was showing that all people were equal. I was stunned to hear my then 4 year-old refer to white people as “regular” people. My 2 year-old will say that a person is “brown” (referring to black people) and says we are “white.” We’re a Korean-American family. My 8 year-old daughter told me the other day that a classmate asked why her eyes were like “this” –as she pulled the skin of her temples to make her eyes more narrow. I am 39 years-old, and I remember the same gesture made towards me by kids in my school in the 80’s. This is 2016 (to use a hashtag that surfaced recently after an Asian American NY Times reporter was told to “go back to China.”

  4. Such a beautiful post! As an aspiring social worker and children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher, this topic is becoming increasingly important in my own work with children and families. It is so important to be able to actively engage in conversations about racial differences, and the systems of oppression and privilege that contribute to a person’s experience of the world.

    (I recently published a blog post about the use of mindfulness in talking about racism with both adults and children- http://www.hannahsherman.com/blog/); the conversation is essential for all of us! Big thank you for posting!

  5. neem says...

    It’s so refreshing and important to share this post and to create a site that honors people of all backgrounds and races. I’ve often found that to be missing on this otherwise wonderful blog, and am encouraged by your clear intention to talk about the real issues and build a more understanding and empowered community.

  6. Morgan says...

    I always think it’s interesting when people say the ideal would be that no one has to recognize or worry about people being of different races/ethnicity. The differences should be highlighted and praised! There are so many cool traditions, histories, and stories people have to share that are related to their experience of race. Of course, there are difficulties that people shouldn’t ignore either. The issue comes when people don’t want to listen to those stories. It’s a positive thing to recognize and celebrate our differences! This was a great article. :D

  7. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I’m black, a paediatric speech and language therapist and have worked/lived in some of the remotest parts of the UK, (Outer Hebrides, Isle of Mann, Far North of Scotland, Scottish Highlands).
    I’ve had various reactions from children, (I’m usually the only black person visiting a school, seeing specific children) ranging from no reaction at all to wondering out loud if I was made of chocolate. I’ve had an autistic boy run his finger along my arm, look at his finger with interest and walk away, (his key worker was mortified, I thought it was hilarious!), I have stopped the corridor traffic of a very small country school in the Hebrides by my mere presence and had a teacher say my English was very good. You respond appropriately, some stuff you let go, some you follow up and speak to child/teacher/parent.
    Some children ask why I’m brown, I explain as best as I can, that everybody is different and ALWAYS say how fabulous that is and I am!
    Adults tend to tie themselves into knots to avoid saying “black”……..I always make it clear that black is absolutely fine, it’s a description not an insult, (as far as I’m concerned).
    Over the years I think I’ve had more comments from children about the gap in my front teeth than about my colour.

  8. Jan Priddy says...

    Thank you for this. I posted a link on my FB page. We need to talk about race, and being afraid to talk about race abets our delusional thinking that racism is not a problem. See What Does It Mean to Be White in America? (2Leaf Press, 2016) for a range of voices speaking to the issue and privileges and a wide range of actions and possible solutions.

  9. Victoria says...

    Thanks for posting this much needed topic. As an African woman raising biracial, ) African and English) kids. I struggle with knowing what is the best answer for my 3 year old boy who has asked me on occasion what color he is. My husband and I talk about racial/political issues all the time and I often try to mask my language for the kids. This gives me something to consider. Perhaps racial conversations should be more open and we should aim for more balance…. Thank you for your work, I enjoy all categories of your blog!

  10. Erika says...

    Let’s be careful not to generalize in any direction. “People who are white don’t have to worry about this…” Depending upon where we live, oh, yes, we do!

  11. Michelle says...

    Beautiful, thank you!

  12. We are pretty luck, our kids go to a very racially diverse school. They are usually the ones initiating the conversation with us, the parents, asking about the new kid from Syria (and why he doesn’t know English), or mentioning their buddy Yasir is visiting relatives in Saudi Arabia, or questioning why what Halal means and why their friend says they can’t eat the hot lunch hot dogs.
    We are also lucky that our school community is made up of different socio-economic situations, and no race falls into a stereotypical group. We have rich/poor educated/uneducated of all sorts.
    So different from when I was in public school and there was only one or two brown or black people in the entire school.
    I’m sure it makes a difference that we are in Canada – there is racism of course, but, it doesn’t seem to be as deep and long standing as our friends in the US.

  13. Susan M. says...

    A couple of years ago, when my son started pre-K 3, my husband and I realized that as white parents (who are foreigners working here) we needed to talk about race and color differences and include varied reading materials. This was partly to counteract some of negative race-based comments made by children at the school (even though the school had a kind of citizens of world approach and did discuss color, too). Around this time, I searched for good kids books online recommended by people, and also ideas for discussions at home. One website pointed out that people of color have far more color-based discussions with their children than do white people. People of color talk about color more frequently and in more varied situations and moments than do white people who shy away from it out of politeness, embarrassment, idea that they are being color blind, or whatever. Learning that basic fact (talking about color more frequently and in a variety of ways) changed how I try to talk to my kids about color, including white privilege. Every year around MLK Jr Day, my son asks about him and how he died. He is upset by the facts, which I give in a fairly shortened but not sugar-coated way. The injustice and inhumanity are hard to contemplate.

  14. Alice says...

    I currently live abroad in a country where my white sons are very much in the minority: on the street they are talked about as foreigners, oddities, and cute objects to admire. My eldest in particular gets a lot of talk about his skin colour, his language development, oh just about everything and it sometimes bugs me, but it doesn’t bother him. He just looks away and carries on toddlering. And this article reminds me about some benefits he is getting from living here. He’s not yet 3 and we talk about the colour of the characters in his books, himself, his friends (who are racially and culturally diverse): not as a label but out of an interest in difference because it is all around us.
    Thanks Jo – an important piece that gets me thinking where our conversations will go next.

    ps – I love the notion that kids will fill in a space in the airwaves if you leave it blank. This is SO true.

  15. OzAl says...

    One of my children’s favourite books is Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Australian author Mem Fox. It features babies from all over the world and I think it is a really story to teach young kids that we are essentially all the same.

    • Alice says...

      Yes! This was exactly the book I was going to recommend!

  16. Proving once again why Cup of Jo is so great! Real talk that makes me hopeful for the next generation!!

  17. Ellen Weber says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I don’t have kids, but I work in a school full of kids of color, and believe strongly in consciousness raising early on. I can’t wait to refer back to this post when it’s time to talk to my own future babies about race.

  18. Lee says...

    This article really got me thinking … simply terrific.

  19. Megan says...

    This is a great post! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  20. Anneka says...

    As a (pregnant) white woman raised in a predominately white state, im so excited to raise my soon to be born babe in the wonderful diversity of NYC. Thanks for these great tips on naming and normalizing race.

  21. ML says...

    Thanks for using your voice & audience to share these important and thought-provoking posts! No kids yet, but when we do they will be multi-racial, and it’s so good to see more people like me reflected on Cup of Jo.

  22. Jenny says...

    Another excellent post. Very informative and really interesting. Thank you!

  23. Alyce says...

    This is a really important topic. Thank you for starting this conversation.

  24. stuart pennebaker says...

    amazing! not even close to being a mama, but I think everyone can learn something from this. thank you!

  25. Malorie says...

    Long-time reader here. No kids (yet), but I am so grateful for this post and so many of the posts you do. It is so absolutely necessary (as many have said above) to speak with kids and to remove the idea that “colorblindness” is appropriate! As someone said above, POC never get the opportunity to be colorblind in the first place! And I love that Lori mentioned that there’s no problem in someone saying that someone is Black. As a Black woman, I often feel like people are tiptoeing and going for “African-American” just because it’s “nice.” We aren’t upset about being Black at all! I prefer that to African-American, just personal preference :)

    Again, thank you so much. Your posts are so great and the community in the comments is amazing. One of the only sites where I even feel comfortable reading the comments!

  26. My stepfather is black, my stepmother is Jewish – cousins who are Filipino. And I’m so happy that despite living in predominately white Utah my son goes to a school with a very diverse set of kids. My son always calls people darker than him (which is pretty much everyone since he has very pale Irish skin) brown skinned. I don’t correct him. But if we are talking about people I may say Latino/a or Hispanic or African American or Black (my stepfather says he prefers the term black). I try to make it a non-issue but also answer any questions and use the appropriate terms. I think its like a child who is differently abled and has a prosthesis (very obvious to kids and my son STARED the first time he saw one). I just explain, she must have lost her leg and now she has that to help her walk. And then we just move on. I don’t want to make it too heavy for a kid – I try to discuss it at his level but also recognize that sometimes as parents we dumb things down because WE are uncomfortable with it. We have discussed slavery and even when reading and watching Little House in the Prairie my son and I talked about how Native Americans were treated and still are. Again, being in Utah, we have much more access to Native Americans than I did growing up on the East Coast and I’ve taken him to a pow wow every year as well as other cultural celebrations so he sees the amazing diversity and how we are blessed by being inclusive.

  27. Claire says...

    I’m discouraged by the number of comments by readers who have been “wondering about this” or “waiting for a post like this”.

    It is our responsibility as humans to seek out information to better ourselves and our communities. Don’t wait to be told what to do and how to act (or react).

  28. Thank you so much for this post. I am a Latina married to a Jewish person, raising our son we lovingly call a “Jewtino.” The other day I was talking to another mom friend (who is white) and brought up a discussions we often have with people (including family members) and comments we have to deal with (especially strangers), and my friends said “parenting is so hard to begin with, and it’s like the color of your skin and your husband’s religion make the weight heavier.” I teared up but also in a way was just grateful to have that acknowledged.

  29. KR says...

    So important! As a person of color, parenting bi-racial kids, it makes me cringe when I hear a white Mom say she’s teaching her kids to be colorblind. There’s no such thing. It’s so important to have the conversation about race and be honest about this. It’s hard, because we live in a society where being one race has lots of privilege and being another does not. Race is not hard, the society we live in, the long-held white supremacist beliefs about race, is what makes talking about it difficult.

  30. Whitney says...

    My daughter loves to play with my phone so I like to change up the background for her. Today, it’s these smiling faces. Thanks for the thoughtful post… and the conversatation-starting picture!

    • Whitney says...

      Oy. *conversation

  31. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing!

  32. Erin says...

    I love this. Gave my nephew the Crayola “Multicultural” colored markers & crayons. I love how all of the pictures of his friends are now totally PC :)

  33. Katie says...

    Thank you for this post. As other commenters have mentioned, you have a wide audience and I think it’s important to address these kinds of topics often to help create natural dialogue for people who might otherwise be uncomfortable or even unaware.

    There is a phenomenal movie from 1994 called “The Color of Fear” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0484384/) which is still completely relevant and informative, especially for those of us who grew up in a largely white area and were taught to be “colorblind”. It was life changing for me to see this film. In part of it, they visit a preschool where the teachers are helping students to identify paint colors (or even mix their own) that match their skin, helping the kids to see that everyone is different and beautiful. I really think every single white person in America should see this movie – it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and speak out against racism and even colorblindness.

  34. adriane says...

    This is wonderful. It is articles like this that make me feel hopeful about the state of the world and I’m so appreciative of this rather than feeling so helpless lately.

  35. Truly one of your best posts yet! Thank you for this. As a mother of a 6 and 4 year old living in Boston and going to public schools . . . I found this immensely helpful and will be sharing with other parents! BRAVO!!

  36. Cherie says...

    This is very interesting to me. Only half an hour ago my 8 yr old daughter and I (both white) were watching the news on tv and there was a story about a great grandfather (white) and his great grandchild (black) and I commented in a matter of fact way that grandad was very white and grandchild very black and my daughter said “mum, that’s so racist”. I replied “no it’s a fact”, but I wondered whether it was a racist thing to say. It occurs to me that I have avoided conversations about race with my kids, using terms like ‘brown skin’ to avoid racist connotations.

  37. LB says...

    Fantastic. :)

  38. Erica says...

    What an important and interesting topic. I never thought too much about this subject in particular regarding Young children. Yet it’s the time when they are most perceptive and sensitive, makes perfect sense. I don’t plan on having children in the immediate future but I think this is a real eye opener and will definitely keep it in mind. Funny story: growing up I went to Pre-K, Kindergarden and 1st grade in a neighborhood in Camden, NJ of 100% black community. In the rather large school I went to (pre k-8th grade), my little Brother and I were the only two White people in the entire school, except two other latino siblings. I guess I never perceived this difference and among many of my self portrait drawings from that time are myself colored with the brown crayon and not “peach” or “pink” (I’m Italian).

  39. Vicky says...

    One day my then 2 year old was playing with a brown-skinned Duplo person. He asked me to, “take this person’s gloves off?” After my initial shock, I used it as a great teaching moment to tell him that people have different coloured skin, but all the same on the inside. (FYI Duplo has an awesome array of worldwide characters.)
    I appreciate the advice on how white skin tones are seen as privileged and am going to make an effort to emphasise this to my children.

    • Vicky says...

      To clarify, I mean to emphasise that it is NOT OK that they are privileged.

  40. Lucy says...

    Thank you for making the space for this discussion, Joanna. It has been eye opening and inspiring for me as a mother of two young children and a woman who wants to change the world.

  41. MG says...

    Not a parent, but longtime reader. I’m really happy to see you’re finding your voice on this issue- you have a huge following and it’s a great privelige and responsibility to be able to use it for something real and important. Please keep it up!

  42. Anna says...

    Thank you for this post! My family is transracial and it’s so important that we have these discussions as adults and with our children. Well done COJ!

  43. Emily says...

    Thank you!! This is a topic we need to address and one that I have worried about as we prepare to bring our first child into the world soon. It seems especially difficult in the rural Midwest which is significantly lacking in diversity as well as people open to these conversations. So thank you thank you thank you!

  44. When my son was 2 we lived in Nebraska and the first time he saw an African-American child he looked at me and asked, “little Bill?” It was 2002 and I vowed that would not be his world. I set out to ensure he would know and embrace diversity. This post reminded me of all those years of ensuring that my boy could see the world from an inclusive view. Thank you!

  45. Cynthia says...

    A very timely post. As a public school teacher, I have students of various races and ethnicities, but they are all human and deserve to be treated fairly.

  46. Cay says...

    I think that it needs to be understood that only white people can be “colorblind.” The rest of us have had that right taken away – we are aware of racial differences from a very young age. I wish we could live in a world where we do not see race, but we don’t. It’s all well and good until you are walking to the playground one day and you pass a housing project and your child asks about who lives there, because it looks like a scary and unwelcoming place. I wish that more white parents, instead of just saying “Oh, people just like you and me” would give their kids a bit more credit and take a stab at a very, very simplified explanation of class and race, about how we are all human but the world is not always a fair or equal place. I feel like that would do the next generation of Americans a lot of good.

    • Yael says...

      Thanks for posting this. I love Cup of Jo, and had been wondering if/when race would ever be mentioned on your blog. I think it’s so important that this blog, written by white women living in Brooklyn with all of its diversity, is able to articulate concepts like privilege. Brava.

  47. Jessie says...

    I’m so glad you wrote about this topic! I have my masters in Early Childhood Education and I am a preschool teacher in Chicago Public Schools. I find it so important to give children the space to speak about what they notice about race, to reflect and ask questions. We have a diverse classroom which is really powerful for the children. We spend a lot of our circle times discussing how to be in community with one another. We study compassion, create a peace table to negotiate conflict, and have conflict and compliment meetings. I deeply believe that teaching our young children how to make space for each other, have conversations, and listen and learn from each other is what will make our world more racially just in the future. It certainly begins with our conversations with them! Today I had a 4 year old draw a picture of all the children in our class using accurately colored skin for each child. She told me, “This is us all hugging. We are holding each other up. We are strong because we love.”

    • Joanna says...

      You sound like a great teacher!

  48. Jenn says...

    I’d like to recommend “Excellent Ed” by Stacy McNulty. It’s a children’s book that featutes a family of color, but isn’t about race.

  49. This post is exactly what I needed. Luna recently began noticing different skin colors & will refer to people as such. We have yet to figure this out and need all the help we can get.

    xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  50. Kathy says...

    I don’t have any children nor plan on having any in the next five years, but I still find these posts so important and so informative in expanding my way of thinking about how I want to raise my future children. So to reiterate what so many people have said – thank you for this post!

  51. i first learned i was “different” when i started at a new school at age 6, and the first question i was asked was if i had been in ESL in kindergarden. i’d been speaking english at school and portuguese at home since age 2, when my family immigrated to the US, and in Brazil, we’re white. so to my parents, they never thought of having to explain my race as “latina” in the united states, which is how we were perceived. i don’t have kids (not sure yet if i will have kids!), but i do have a lot of friends raising children in different countries, because they’ve married people from different cultures, and i always make it a point to ask them if they’re raising their kids first of all – with a sense of being bilingual – and also multicultural, and how that makes up their identity and how they’re perceived… this way, maybe they’ll have a better answer to “were you in ESL?” than i did – which was “What’s ESL?”

  52. Caz says...

    Such an interesting post! I’m not a parent yet, but I was thinking about this recently. Some of my family members have views on race that I certainly don’t agree with and they use derogatory language, even around my nieces and nephews. It’s made me wonder how I’ll deal with that when I have kids and they are around those family members. I think an open dialogue is a great idea. They pick up so much more than we realize.

  53. Sasha says...

    I love this post, thank you for helping teach all of us how to do better.

    As a white woman growing up in a very small town in a very white place, I was surrounded by white racists, and almost no people of any other ethnicity. I wanted to do better for my own children, growing up in a more open town in better times, but still very white. My dh has a grandmother who was half Mexican, but hid this heritage (sadly, it was easier for her to live “white”) and we talked about her a lot to our kids, why she hid herself, why that was safer, that they can be proud of this heritage. We read every book I could find that depicted people of color and talked from an early age about our country’s struggled with equality. We just made a conscious effort to seek out the stories of people different from us, always pointing out the ways in which we are the same too. As white people we have a huge responsibility to try our best to make it better. Thank you for helping.

  54. Elizabeth says...

    GREAT post! However, I do have a problem with using the word “race” to describe people of different ethnicities. An important concept to teach children should be that there is actually only one RACE, the human race, and that there are variations in skin color and appearance within that race.

    • Nina says...

      Completely second this, I think that it would make such a big difference if we were brought up with the notion that we all belong to the same (human) race!

      I do agree that it is great to be open with children about sometimes visible differences as another layer(s) but I think that there is a lot of confusion around skin colour, ethnicity, community, nationality and at times religion (for instance when the article refers to Lori and Sachi as “black/biracial/multi-racial” and “white Jewish woman of Russian, Polish, Lebanese, Syrian and Cuban descent”).

      The way I’d describe myself is French, mixed African/Eastern European with light brown skin :)

      The world is getting so mixed nowadays I think (and hope) the old concept of race will face away as so many of use don’t fit into any of these boxes.

    • Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who reacts to the term race. We are all the same race, with different etnicities and skin colour. Or maybe race means something different in the US than in Norway? Biological human races do not exist, so it gets confusing when we use the term as if they do. I’m sorry if this is offensive, all I am trying to say is that we are all variations of the same race. And I absolutely agree that being colour blind is wrong.

  55. Alex says...

    I showed this article’s paper cut out faces picture to my 4 year old. When he asked “what’s that” I replied that it was a picture of people who all look different. He asked “what makes them different? Is it that some have bigger smiles?”
    Sometimes I think the best approach to race consciousness is blissful unconsciousness. Kids naturally just see people regardless of skin color. We should go with that. Yep, son, they’re people. We’re all people.

    • Aya says...

      Yes, we are all people but this sounds like “blissful ignorance” is best. Many people can’t be unconscious about race, let alone blissfully so. I think we should instead be striving for “blissful consciousness” which takes conversation, acknowledgement and celebration. I don’t want people to see me ‘regardless’ of my skin color. I love being brown and mixed. I want people to have regard for my skin color, as one element that makes me me.

    • I love your son’s response! Super sweet.

    • Colette says...

      This is adorable!!

  56. Raised in a Vaishnava Hindu family we where taught implicitly, from a young a age, that even though we are born into a race but that is not our identity. We are not black (my closest friend since high school) or white (myself) or yellow (my Chinese husband) but instead we are all spirit souls within these houses that we call our bodies. We are all brothers and sisters just wearing different color clothes.

    Here is an excerpt from a series of videos by the Science of Identity Foundation that addresses so profoundly this exact subject.

    “How to End Racism and Bigotry | One of the most divisive issues facing the world today is bigotry and racism. Race riots, shootings, bullying and discrimination are becoming increasingly common. What does the wisdom of yoga have to teach us about the things that divide us? Are we destined to be forever divided by race, ethnicity, religion, etc. or can we end racism and bigotry and bring about peace and harmony? Read more about overcoming racism & bigotry with wisdom”

    http://www.scienceofidentity.org/live/series/becoming-force-good-world/part-two-how-end-racism-and-bigotry

  57. Excellent topic and I’m so glad you wrote about it. Thank you! My kids are biracial (white/asian) and go to a mandarin immersion school. They are actually the majority at their school, but we’re trying very hard to make the school more diverse, particularly focusing on African American families. Before, my second grader equated race with the language that person spoke, now he sees that everyone can speak the same language and can even speak others at home. This alone has taught him that you don’t know a lot about a person just by looking at them.

  58. Samantha says...

    The problem I see with being color-conscious is that at the end of the day, you feel bad for minorities so you end up giving them special treatment. And by convincing yourself that being white gives you a certain privilege, you might ignore discriminating situations or just consider yourself to be too sensitive about it. There is such thing as white discrimination in places where Black and Latino are majority, which is my case. Most of my classmates have had darker skin than mine, so have most of my friends and most of my boyfriends. I’ve literally been told “you’re too white for that” in many occasions., but most people will think “she’s probably overreacting” or “she’s just stuck on her white privilege”. I think it would be unfair for anyone to think that I’ve gotten where I am because of my skin color and not because I’ve work hard for the things I’ve accomplished, like being the top honor student in my high school graduation, getting a scholarship, getting the job that I have (the pay is great for being an undergrad).

    I don’t think colorblindness is the way to go either, because skin color is more than just skin, in many cases it has a lot to do with culture and it’s important to recognize and embrace those differences. But it is also important to know that everyone should be treated equally. Treating someone in a special way because they’re a minority is just as bad as treating a white person in a special way because they’re white. Reverse discrimination does no good either. People should get treated based on their character, not based on their skin/nationality/religion/etc.

    • Samantha says...

      Just wanted to add that I’m also Jewish, and reading the comments has made me remember a lot of the bullying I went through in school for my religion (I guess I had buried those memories, but everything just came back). My grandfather on my father’s side was captured by the Nazis but managed to escape and save his life. If it wasn’t for his incredible bravery my family would not be here today. And it just sucks how people think that being White your family has had zero issues and everything was given to you in life, when you’ve had to deal with discrimination too in the most horrible ways, just for different reasons.

  59. Roxana says...

    Thank you for this!!! It’s unbelievably timely for me.

    We’re white. We live in a very diverse community in the “Chicago-land” area and attend a very large, very diverse church (over 70 countries are represented at our church!). Needless to say, we have a very diverse group of friends, on top of the fact that my parents are immigrants who speak another language and speak English with an accent.

    I recently had a conversation with my 5 year old son in which I was explaining slavery in America to him (we were reading the sides of U-Haul trucks and one of the trucks depicted a picture of the underground railroad in Canada). My son was listening and then responded by saying something like “that was okay” because he “doesn’t like black people.” To say that I was (and still am) shocked is an understatement. My stomach flipped and my heart sank. I explained that it was wrong to think that (we believe God created all people equal, for starters) and said a few other things, but I’m still reeling from the exchange and am wondering how to address this issue going forward.

    I feel ashamed, but at the same time I know for certain that he did not get an idea like that from me or my husband; that’s just not who we are; it doesn’t represent our hearts or our reality. We seriously have a very diverse group of friends who have been in our home and have played with our children multiple times. We’ve discussed differences, too: “Mr. Bryan is Black; The T-family are Korean and Indian; Miss Tra is from Vietnam, Ms. Maha is Palestinian, etc.” Maybe we haven’t said enough? Either way, my son has a very diverse group of friends (Black, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern; you name it) and, of course, gladly plays with any other kids. He has never said anything about race before, but then he said this so naturally. Oh, and if it matters, he’s never been to preschool and is not yet in Kindergarten. I’m wondering if my son was expressing an aesthetic bias of sorts? Is there some kind of innate racism of which I am unaware? If anyone can provide any kind of insight I would be so appreciative! I feel self-conscious about sharing this, but it’s too important and we need to know how to address it. Also, thank you in advance for not judging me or my family!

    • Jess says...

      I’m the momma of a transracial family. Two of our kids are black and three are white. We have always, always been positive about different races, and one of our own children still told me at about age 5 that white was a better color than black. My jaw hit the floor because he has a very, very black brother and sister. I kind of freaked out a little bit, but I do think that for him, he was saying what he felt. He likes white better than black. Not people, but color. I am guessing it’s something similar with your son. We immediately had a conversation about how people have opinions on colors they like, but that doesn’t make people of different colors than us bad. We were quick to address his comment, and always are if we should here any negative talk about color or races out of anyone near us. He’s now 9 and it’s never been an issue since. I would just take those as “teaching opportunities”. You hear something inappropriate and talk about it with your children. For what it’s worth, my husband is a red-headed, freckled-face male, but I am completely more attracted to black men. Some things are aesthetic bias, but that doesn’t make them bad, we just need to learn how to frame them appropriately. keep talking to your son and don’t worry.

    • Martine says...

      Let me start by saying that I am not a parent so please feel free to disregard my comment if it’s unrealistic.

      What struck me reading your comment is that you made no mention of asking your son why he ‘doesn’t like black people’. It might be a simplified reason where a child might have been mean to him and he generalised?

      I just remember from when I was younger that I had ‘good’ reasons (or they were good reasons in my mind!) for saying things, so it might be worth asking him!

    • Eladot says...

      I don’t know why your son said that but I can share my experience. I went to very multicultural schools all my life. I remember one day when I was 5 my mum was asking me about my friends at kindergarten. I told her there was a boy we didn’t like and we didn’t want to play with him, when asked why I said because he was dark-skinned. My mum was horrified and told me off sharply. I still remember this moment because I never misbehaved as a child and I felt terrible about making my mum angry. I had no idea that what I was saying was wrong. I think it was mostly because that boy had an accent and it was hard to understand him. Later at age 8 my best friend was Pakistani… I did not grow up to be a racist! It was just a stupid thing I said when I was 5. My parents raised me to be an open, tolerant and loving person and I’m sure you’ll do the same and your son will turn out just fine :)

    • Kate says...

      I don’t have any insights or experiences to share (my kiddo is 16 months and says a bunch of words that all sound the exact same), but I wanted to comment that I sincerely appreciate your candor and vulnerability. Comments like yours are the reason I love the Cup of Jo community. I’ll definitely be checking back on the replies. Thank you!
      PS: You’re a great mom :)

    • Hi Roxana!
      I just wanted to suggest that maybe your child said that because of things he sees in the media or toy stores, or because he realizes that the Black children that he is around is different from him in a way that he can’t understand yet. Maybe they sound different to him or do things in a way that is different from your family. Even though you may not have him
      Watching racist things on tv (I dont think you would do that on purpose!) some things just get in our subconscious- like a Black actor getting killed in a movie & a white actor saving the day, may make your child feel like white is better. I remember when I was younger, before Bratz dolls, I felt like companies didn’t put a lot of effort into making black dolls pretty. Things like that. I really hope this helps!!!

    • Emily Pauli says...

      I want to echo Kate’s sentiments that I sense you’re a great mom and that your candor and vulnerability is beautiful. I feel your sincerity in wanting to raise your son to be a good person and you’re willingness to risk public embarrassment for the sake of trying to raise him to be anti-racist. I’m a white woman in Tulsa, OK who has only been doing the work of unlearning racism for a few years now but hear me when I say if there’s one thing I’ve learned–it’s that not one of us grows up (and I’ll only speak for white folks here) without racism seeping into our very being. I had liberal, progressive, “non-racist” parents and I’m still having to do the work to unlearn racism. And I didn’t figure this out until my 40s. I say that to try to help alleviate the guilt and shame you might feel from any behavior your son exhibits–even at the early age of 5. It’s a bit of a mystery how even a five-year-old can already start picking it up, but I know somehow it’s in the very air we breathe. The exciting thing as I see it is you have so much time and influence to be able to work with your son on it. I’m the mother of 13-year-old boys (twins) and I finally realized this year it’s my job (because they’re not going to learn this anywhere else) to teach them how to start unlearning the racism they already have in themselves. And to teach them it is there. That’s one of the biggest hurdles is for good, progressive white people to even realize it’s in them, too! One of the best things I’ve done as a parent is to start the work (and it is work) of unlearning the racism in myself so I know where to start in helping my sons. I’d love to gently suggest that one of the best things you can do for your son, is to start unlearning the racism (sometimes also referred to as implicit bias) in yourself, too, because not only will it make you a better person and citizen, it will help you teach your son as well. Here’s a resource on implicit bias you might or might not already be familiar with: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. I don’t know where you live or what resources might be available in your community, but I’m hopeful if I can find them in Tulsa, OK, maybe you can find them in your community as well. I’m full of hope when I see mothers out there like you. I believe the very lives of our fellow Americans and the soul of our country depends on our commitment to ending the negative impact of racism and implicit bias with our children. Sending you great love and strength on your journey.

    • Roxana says...

      Thank you so much for all your comments!

      My son had made the comment on Saturday and today, after his nap while we were cuddling on the couch (and after he’d told me all about his dream involving Venus flytraps :), I asked him about what we’d discussed in the car (Martine, I hadn’t had an opportunity to ask on Saturday – long story. Also, I do appreciate your comment even if you’re not a parent. In fact, sometimes not having kids can lend clarity to these things). I reminded him of our conversation re slavery. At first he couldn’t even remember our conversation and then when he did he said “Oh, well I don’t like black or white people.” I was like “Huh??” He meant black or white as in the colors! Kind of like you suspected, Jess; also thanks for what you shared. He doesn’t like black as a color or white as a color (fair enough). He went on to explain that he’d like a blue person or green or orange. . . I felt so relieved when hearing him say this. It was clear that he hadn’t connected calling a person “Black” with their skin tone or ethnicity or race, and that he hadn’t connected it with the image on the side of the U-Haul truck. Needless to say, he didn’t mean his comment the way I’d understood it. It was a good opportunity to talk about how people have different skin tones, etc. and that we all have unique things. Of course, I think this will be an on-going dialogue! But I feel a little better equipped now.

      Thank you again for all your thoughtful and kind responses!

    • Joanna says...

      My son is only 3.5 but we also live in a diverse neighborhood in a city and he has always gone to schools with children and teachers where at least 50% are non-white. He plays on Malcolm X playground a few blocks from our house, where he is usually the only white kid. On a beach trip when he was younger, he found the one non-white family on the beach and started playing with them and we joked about it. My (white) husband wears a Black Lives Matter bracelet and works in a school that is 99% Black (and low income). And then, about a year ago, he was looking at a toy catalogue with a wide array of baby dolls of various races. He pointed to all the white babies and said he liked those the best. I was also embarassed and horrified. I asked him why and he didn’t really have an answer. I bought him a dark-skinned baby doll for Hanukkah that year. It (thankfully) has been an isolated experience and he shows no evidence of racial bias in who he plays with or talks to. I think you just keep on doing what you are doing, addressing the comments in an age-appropriate way, and have faith that by being aware of race and helping our children lead lives filled with positive role models and friends of all races and backgrounds will undoubtedly shape their world views as they get older and understand more and more.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Love this thread, and I definitely echo what Kate said! Thank you so much to all you smart and lovely women. xoxo

  60. Celeste says...

    THANK YOU, thank you. I was lucky to live in a white household that talked about race, but it was mostly because I had some adopted black and Asian cousins, which started the conversation. This post is immensely helpful as I look to the next generation.

  61. When I was little, I attended Catholic school, which as you can imagine was pretty homogenous. However one of my best friends was Korean (adopted by white parents) and I don’t think I ever thought much about it until she got into a fight with a little boy one day who told her to “go back to her own country”. She was devastated. I was upset for her, and went home and told my parents about it, and my dad then told me a story about the amount of racial slurs he got for being the son of Italian immigrants when he was little. Then I heard stories from my mom’s side of the family about the way the Irish were treated in America however long ago, and how Catholics were treated up until very recently in Northern Ireland. I was upset by what happened to my friend, but I think what hit it home the most for me was that in another time and place, the exact same thing could have happened to me, whereas I was someone who’d never considered myself “different” from anyone. It really hit home how incredibly arbitrary racism can be, and how incredibly stupid. When I have kids (who will just be a mix of European ancestry, as my partner is of Polish, Hungarian, German) descent, I want to find a way to frame the race conversation by telling them what their own grandparents and great-grandparents had to go through. I think that makes it more personal and therefore more effective.

    And I just want to add to the litany of thanks for not being afraid to bring up important, potentially controversial topics in your space. I’ve always loved this blog but this just makes me love it even more. I really wish more people with platforms would do the same, and honestly, seeing some bloggers staying entirely silent about the bigger issues we face, especially given the current political climate, is making me think twice about continuing to follow.

  62. This was such a beautiful post Joanna! It is so important for everyone to educate themselves and their children on how to become good allies.
    I remember when I moved to London for graduate school, one of my fellow students was from a very small town in Texas and would ask me what religion people he would see on the street wearing hijabs or turbans were. I was so embarrassed at first, and then I realized that no one where he grew up talked to him about different races, cultures, or religions and he was never exposed to them, so he genuinely didn’t know. His parents may have taught him to treat everyone the same, but he needed more information to be able to properly empathize with and understand people who looked differently than he was used to. It really taught me how dangerous it is not to talk to children about these tough subjects, it can affect them long into adulthood.

  63. Ingrid says...

    Thank you! Excellent points!

  64. Joleen says...

    Thank you for this!

  65. Ramona says...

    I think this is a really hard thing to approach, at least for me as a white mom of a white kid. I realize that it isn’t enough to raise my child with platitudes about treating people equally and knowing that it’s what is inside that counts because the truth is that a lot of people, even very well-meaning people, treat others differently because of their race, color, gender, etc., whether on purpose or out of implicit bias. I recently started taking some of the implicit bias tests on Harvard’s website (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) and the experience has led me to realize that I am more biased than I would have expected. It’s difficult to know how to teach my daughter to do something that I may not even be that good at myself.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, ramona, this is really interesting.

    • Roxana says...

      Thank you for this!

    • Fatima says...

      Well them become better at it. When you know better, do better ( quote by Maya Angelou)

  66. liz says...

    Great post, perhaps in future you can also do a post about people that look different for other reasons – they are in a wheelchair, they have scars, they are very small. Those are things that can cause issues too.

  67. Katherine says...

    One of your best posts, possibly ever. Thank you!!

  68. Rt says...

    NYC is a diverse place overall but many neighborhoods are not diverse and the NYC public school system is absolutely not diverse at all, ie there are no white people going to them. Most of the people who champion diversity on one hand and support causes like black lives matter will do anything possible not to be in a diverse school environment, or only diverse enough to make themselves feel good. What I’m trying to say is that while this discussion may be worth having I think we shouldn’t be too quick to go by words alone as talk is cheap.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, i think addressing the issue on all levels is really important. thank you, RT!

    • t says...

      RT, this is so true and so challenging. I am a white parent and we are deciding on where we will be sending our children to school in the next two years. My exact comment to my spouse was “diversity is extremely important to me but if I have to make the choice between diversity and high ranking schools/test scores then I chose the latter.”

      Unfortunately that is a choice that has to be made in my community and my choice contributes to the divide; but how can I compromise on education?

      I know this is what it means when people express that racism isn’t going to stop because white people wouldn’t want to give up white privilege. And maybe that isn’t true for every white person and I would like to say that it isn’t true for me but as I mentioned we are fortunate enough to be able to chose to send our kids to a school outside of our diverse neighborhood in order to receive the best education we can afford. And that isn’t something that I want to give up.

      So my question is – is the solution to send them to our low ranking neighborhood school and potentially sacrifice the quality of their education to better the world?

      Is anyone else battling the same dilemma?

    • Rebecca says...

      Joanna, are you sending Toby to public school?

    • A says...

      Hey T- I always think the answer to this kind of question comes down to how you would explain your choice to your kids if they were 35. Would you feel more comfortable telling a story about investing in the scores or investing in the community? I don’t think there is one right answer – but the most important education your kids will get will be from watching you make tough choices. Do what you hope they will one day do themselves.

    • RT brings up an interesting point that I find disturbing, which is that many of us city dwellers (NYC, SF, Seattle, Los Angeles) live in extremely diverse populations, yet only associate with and spend time with our own ethnic group. I am Catholic and Asian, yet have worked hard to seek out friends from different backgrounds (religious, ethnic and socioeconomic). My bridal party consisted of 3 men and 3 women: 1 black, 1 white, 1 mexican, 3 asian, and 2 who are gay. Because of the community I have surrounded myself with, I expect my son to grow up with similar diversity and have friends from all walks of life.

      To T’s comment below, as a parent, I want my son to have the best education possible. If that means a less diverse school, so be it, but then it’s up to the parent to supplement the lack of diversity with activities and events where our children will encounter a multitude of races.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thanks for all these great comments! Rebecca, yes, our boys are going to public school, and we feel very strongly about it. Toby’s school right now is very diverse, both racially and socio-economically, and that was really important to us. I feel grateful that this is something we are able to do in Brooklyn.

    • t says...

      and not to make light of a very serious discussion but clearly my children need a substantial education when my comment is riddled with errors (choose vs chose)

      :)

    • Sarah K says...

      Hi, all,

      Joanna, thank you for this post. And thank you to all who’ve commented! Thank you, especially, RT! I’ve read Cup of Jo on and off since 7th grade (half my life!!), and thank you for your continual willingness to share and explore. You provide solidarity and community and fun!

      A bit of positionally: I am not a parent, and I respect the difference in perspective that that gives me. I think about this topic more from the perspective of the role of schooling–I am coming of age in the time of the Black Lives Matter movement, getting my elementary teaching license and my BA in sociology. I am white and grew up wealthy in a racially diverse West Coast city and attended private schools throughout childhood and adolescence, so the issue of “school choice” is personally relevant.

      My two cents – and further reading:
      I would go so far as to say that I think that the inequities of schooling in the US is one of the primary ways that inequality is intergenerationally reproduced. So, yes, placing your children in a “school choice” school (whether that’s private, parochial, charter, or magnet) or even making geographic choices about where to live based on schools does reproduce inequality. I do not want to blame individuals, which distracts from a larger purpose of deconstructing institutional privilege, but to contextualize individuals choices and to focus attention on an inequitable public school system. Henig writes that schools are democratic institutions through which we deliberate and decide how to create the society that we want (“Rethinking School Choice: The Limits of the Market Metaphor”, 1994). These are important questions!

      With that, here are some recommendations for further reading:

      If you only read one article read this one: What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success by Anu Partanen (Atlantic, 2011) http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

      “The Effects of Public School Choice on Those Left Behind: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina” Bifulco, Ladd, Ross, 2009

      “Buying Homes, Buying Schools: School Choice and the Social Construction of School Quality” Holme, 2002

      “School Selection as a Process: The Multiple Dimensions of Race in Framing Educational Choice” Saporito and Lareau, 1999.

      “Middle-Class Parents, Risk, and Urban Public Schools” Kimelberg, 2014.

      Almost anything recent (last 10 years) by the controversial educational historian Diane Ravitch will discuss school choice.

      I am happy to answer questions about these articles or provide a short summary if you are interested (didn’t want to make the post too long). Email me at skoch@middlebury.edu if you want more information.
      Best,
      Sarah

    • t says...

      Sarah, I completely agree with you that “placing your children in a “school choice” school… does reproduce inequality.”

      First thank you for all the resources. I have not yet had a chance to read through them all but I did read through your required reading about Finnish schools and the first thing that jumps out is that Finland began reforming their schools in the 80’s and it is only within recent years that the test scores began receiving praise.

      Yes, I agree our system needs a complete overhaul due to inequality but I still go back to my initial question: do I sacrifice the quality of my children’s education NOW to better the world?

      As a parent it is in my soul to do what is best for my children and is that what is best? Will they be at a disadvantage because they receive an inferior education or will their diverse experience outweigh it?

  69. I was happy to hear about Wear Out The Silence! I’m excited to be able to join in this way.

  70. Margit Van Schaick says...

    When we moved from Toledo, Ohio to Vermont (where I grew up and both sets of grandparents lived) , my kids were 6 and 9 years old. After settling into their new school, they commented about how there were no black kids. I remember thinking that it sounded as if they were puzzled by this, that something was missing. It made me realize how important diversity is to our American experience–without it, we do miss something valuable. It wasn’t until they left Vermont for college that my daughters once again experienced a diverse world. …

  71. miri says...

    thank you.

  72. Emma says...

    Thanks so much, Joanna! This was really helpful even though I do not have children yet.

    I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents had a lot to do with helping me understand race. I am a white woman, and for most of my youth, I grew up in Iowa. I don’t think it was until later in my high school years that I even realized race was a thing worth talking about. Previously, I had never been exposed to my peers’ opinions on the subject because there was so little diversity to spark the conversation in the first place. Luckily, I had parents who had lived elsewhere, who prioritized travel, and who were willing to bring up uncomfortable topics a the dinner table for my sister and I to be exposed to and talk through (usually something insensitive my dad’s coworkers had said).

    As I moved away for college in DC, the guidance of my parents certainly didn’t mean that I knew everything there is to know about race (I never will!) but it has helped me to be open to learning opportunities in my social circles, rather than becoming embarrassed or defensive. For example, I learned from a Jamaican-American friend that “black” and “African-American” are not interchangeable. I’ve learned so much just by listening, and I wish that’s something my white peers in Iowa had the willingness to be open to now.

  73. Maeve says...

    Echoing thanks to CoJ for addressing this topic! My husband and I are both black (he’s African American, I’m of Caribbean descent) and have a 3 year old girl. We live in a predominantly white area so conversations on race have already come up with our daughter. At first I was really hesitant — she was noticing the difference between herself and most of her pre-school friends and already expressing a desire to be ‘light’. It really broke my heart and I was so reluctant to address it as I just wanted to protect her but my husband and I decided that talking about it openly would be helpful. We’ve talked about how everyone is different on the outside but it’s the inside (their kindness, helpfulness) that is most important. We’ve also celebrated being black (it’s like chocolate!) and the fact that God loves every color! Searching out for positive little people of color in books and shows (thank you Doc McStuffins!) has also been helpful. It’s a continuous process but one that (as this post wonderfully emphasizes) is necessary.

  74. Abby says...

    Thank you for this! My little 3 month old is biracial (i’m white and her father is black), and I’m already thinking through how to have this conversation with her. I saved the link you posted a couple of weeks ago to the racially diverse children’s books as well. Thank you so much for being willing to talk about hard topics and bringing helpful and thoughtful resources to the table.

  75. Katie says...

    My children are biracial (I’m white and my husband is Asian). Though I get on my high horse about racist comments I am also complacent in perpetuating the exocitism that their ethnic make-up brings out in their appearance. I’m not sure how to respond when people say something about their beauty coming from being biracial. I usually just nod and make a comment that makes me feel icky. Also, on the Asian side skin color plays a small role, but the obvious racial difference seems to be most obvious in the eyes. Not sure how to address that. Talking about eye shape seems less socially acceptable than skin color.

    • Kait says...

      Same! I am struggling to respond to people who say my daughter is beautiful because she is biracial. Which I know is coming from a place of perceived kindness, but I don’t want to raise her to be constantly told she’s exotic and beautiful as her first shallow interaction with people. Then I get it from white people and Asian people how large and round her eyes are “despite her being half Chinese”. It’s all just such a gross back and forth and I never know what to say. I do have my response down for when people ask me “what” she is (a 9 month old baby human!) and where she came from (Did you know they just give away babies along with fortune cookies now?!) I admit the fortune cookie comment is dumb in itself but it gets very frustrating when people demand to know where my child came from (my vagina, if they must know!)

      I’m going to be reading lots of articles like these and books about race to help myself create more meaningful conversations with people rather than sarcastic comments to their thoughtless remarks.

    • Deanna says...

      I’m biracial (my mom is white and dad, Asian) and really struggled with it, especially in my predominantly white elementary school. Some kids tossed around words like “chink” or “Yellow Fever” fairly often, and I didn’t get comfortable with my Asian-ness until I went to a diverse summer camp. Now, in my late 20s, I still get comments all the time and questions about my ethnicity. They generally don’t bother me; maybe I’m just used to hearing them. I only really lose my sh*t when people say, “But you don’t look Chinese.” Like, thanks but no thanks for your input.

    • Cay says...

      I’m white and Asian. When I was younger, people got really weird around me – they would talk about what an exotic and beautiful child I was, literally just random people on the street. Orientalism is a very real thing, and so is the fetishization of biracial children – particularly biracial Asian and white children. It’s very tough to deal with. I would say to try to steer the conversation firmly towards something else – like a recent accomplishment in soccer or school. That’s what my mother always tried to do.

      I would also try to explain to your children, in very basic terms, what it is. Being biracial is hard – it is a gray area that America does not fully comprehend yet. The earlier you equip them, the better, because the weirdness definitely doesn’t stop. I have more than once, a few wine glasses in, told off guys in bars who have called me “so exotic” and explained that they were being racist.

    • Kristin says...

      My children are half white (german and french descent) and half hispanic. My daughter has brown skin, deep brown eyes, and light brown hair with blonde highlights. She kind of looks like a 7 year old Jessica Alba, for some sort of visual reference. Anyway, I am super pale and blonde, and so are my other two children. When we are all together, people CONSTANTLY comment on the color of her skin. It is always complementary, but it is constant and annoying. I get it–basically she looks super tan, and it is obvious compared to her brothers. People don’t realize that it is just the color of her skin. She is starting to get bothered by it. When people comment on it, usually by saying, “wow–she is so tan! you must have spent a lot of time outside this summer!” I always say, “No, that is just the color of her skin. She is so lucky to have been born such a beautiful color.” That usually shuts them up right away. I used to be nicer, and just sort of laugh and agree with them, but I can’t handle it anymore. I know people are not understanding that they are calling her out as different when they say this, but they are. To me this goes to a larger problem with constant commenting on a girl’s appearance. You don’t have to say how pretty my daughter is when you see her. No one says how handsome my boys are on a regular basis (although they are!), but it is a frequent comment that she hears. Ugh. Racism, sexism…who knew this was going to be so complicated! :)

    • Aya says...

      I think your response is plenty “nice”–clear, positive and supportive of your daughter. I’m going to have to remember this one. And I hear you on the girls getting complimented for beauty all the time. I hadn’t thought of this until a CoJ post a while back and now make an effort not to comment on girls’ appearances. There’s so much other stuff to talk about! Anyway, I just wanted to chime in that it sounds like you’re doing a great job.

  76. Yvonne says...

    “People who are white don’t have to worry about this…” Huh?? You’re going to have a conversation about race by excluding one of those races from the discussion because “they” don’t have to worry about racism?!?! I think it would be better to tell your children that injustice can come to anyone at anytime and what’s important is having a solid foundation of right and wrong regardless of gender or race. Then you can seek out ANY injustice perpetuated against ANY human being and fight against that. As a white person, I’ve never seen my race villainized by a reckless, unscrupulous and completely biased media more so than in the last five years!! Lady, we ALL have to worry about this!

  77. JoAnna, I’m sending you a virtual hug for this post – it’s so affirming to know there’s a piece like this that exists on the internet. I just toured the brand new African American History + Culture museum here in DC and much of what was written in this post is reflected at the museum. My children are 1/4 Chinese and we’ve talked about it since they were babies….and as much as possible, included in our daily chatter how skin color and eye shape make us look different on the outside, but all the same on the inside. Thank you, thank you for using your wonderful platform to share this post. I look forward to reading the other pieces by Lori and Sachi.

    Also, a fantastic book you may enjoy: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/123546/half-and-half-by-edited-and-with-an-introduction-by-claudine-c-ohearn/9780307485762/

  78. This is wonderful. It’s so important to set the tone for how they see race. My kid’s kindergarten teacher made a curriculum for learning about the world–they would “travel” to different countries and learn about life there. One day when we were in a city (we live in a small, very rural town), we saw a black man. My kid was fascinated–which country do you think he’s from? (I said maybe France. Or not. People come from all over, after all, we live in France and aren’t French.) I was pleased that when my kid saw somebody different, the reaction was curiosity and interest, not fear or rejection, and I thank the teacher for that.

  79. Jess says...

    Thanks for this post and for using your platform to help build bridges and foster more love and understanding in our world!!! Xx

  80. Stephanie says...

    Love love love this. <3

  81. Alexa says...

    A few weeks ago, my son mentioned that one of his best friends (who is of Indian descent) had brown skin. He asked why people had different colors of skin and what it meant. I responded with, “It’s the same as having a different color of hair. If you have black hair, you’re no different inside than someone with blonde, red or brown hair. What you look like outside doesn’t matter.” He seemed okay with that.

    • Ooly says...

      But I think a big point of this article is that it *does* matter what you look like because regardless of if your skin is brown or if you have boobs or you wear a hijab, people very much treat you differently. A much more successful convo would’ve been to say that than to continue to pretend that what we look like doesn’t matter in our society. It does. It very much does.

    • Samantha says...

      To some people it might matter, but the ideal would be for race to not matter. So I don’t see anything wrong with the answer she gave her son. And it is true, skin is just like any other physical feature. If no one is discriminated based on their hair color, why would they be discriminated based on skin color? It’s based on character that people should be treated differently, not looks.

    • Val says...

      Of course the ideal would be lovely, but we, especially those of us who are non-white, don’t live in that ideal world. The point of the conversation is the value in teaching our children that while differences in appearance shouldn’t matter, people are still treated differently because of them and that we all still have a lot of work to do to get to that ideal.

    • Madie says...

      I think Ooly was trying to say that the purpose of the article was to suggest that you go a step further than “it’s just like different hair color, and so it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside”. The step further could be to say something along the lines of, “some people are not treated fairly because of the color of their skin, and that’s not right”. As parents, we need to start taking this next step, to open this dialogue with our kids. Otherwise we’re right back where we started with our (dysfunctional) “colorblind” approach.

    • joanne says...

      Yes, I agree with Ooly. Some of the comments on this thread make me very uncomfortable; lots of parents saying things like children don’t see color, there’s just one human race. To me, those are comments I only hear from White people. To people of color, particularly those who have been marginalized, race and color and culture do matter, they mean everything. That’s the whole point of white privilege. You can grow up thinking that way, that your child just doesn’t see race and color, but you can bet the black kids and Asian kids and Hispanic kids etc. are all keenly aware of it.

  82. Emily C says...

    Great post. A good follow-up might be talking to your kids about and normalizing interactions with children with physical and/or mental disabilities. As a mother to a physically disabled (though cognitively typical) child this is a topic that I wrestle with constantly.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, this is a wonderful idea. thank you!

    • Katherine says...

      The Paralympics were helpful for that at our house. Lots of conversations about athletes being born with their body or having injuries etc that changed their bodies. I also loved an ad campaign here (in Australia) in the lead up to the games which was all about the Superhumans. Our kids totally grasped the idea that these people were extra strong, extra hard working, especially when they were watching swimming. They have both struggled to learn to swim, and to see people racing without arms or legs really impressed them. I don’t know if we got all those conversations right, but I hope they’re developing a sense that people are all different in many ways, and people are all valuable and to be valued.
      You might also enjoy the book ‘Ugly’ by Robert Hoge. I think there is an adult and children’s edition of his autobiography. He was born with deformed legs and a facial tumor in the 70s, and so shocked his mother they nearly didn’t take him home with them. He’s an impressive man in many ways. I know my biracial niece and nephew love having books where they see themselves and their lives reflected. Perhaps a book like this would be similar for your family?

  83. Jenna says...

    Thank you! This is extremely helpful.

  84. Lizzy says...

    I live in rural England, our little town is predominantly white, and people still say ‘black’ in a slight whisper, as if they’re worried about being called racist if they use that word at a normal volume?? V bizarre. They also do it with ‘gay’ and they look around in a panicked fashion when my family and I use those words in normal, everyday conversation, like we’re about to be busted somehow?! Makes me smile. I think it comes from a place of genuine concern that they’re going to offend someone who is either black or gay (or both?!) if they use those words to describe them… obviously skin colour or sexual orientation shouldn’t be the main way you identify a person but they go so far the other way… in a group of 10 children, trying to identify the one black kid they’ll be all ‘oh you know, the one in the blue top, with the trainers, on the scooter…’ I feel like the rude mum saying ‘they’re ALL in trainers on scooters, it’s ok to say ‘the black kid’ sometimes…’ I wouldn’t hesitate to identify my own child as ‘the ginger kid’…

  85. Karin says...

    Thank you, Joanna. I almost didn’t comment but it seems like there aren’t very many responses to this post so I wanted to add my voice. Thank you for using your voice for such an important conversation.

  86. Sarah says...

    This is so interesting. There is a great research-based book called Nurture Shock that compiles research on several topics related to raising children. One of the chapters is about why white parents don’t talk to their children about race. It’s fascinating how they are able to do scientific studies on that type of thing. Also a chapter about the sibling effect, why kids lie, etc. I really recommend it.

    https://www.amazon.com/NurtureShock-New-Thinking-About-Children/dp/0446504130/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475521789&sr=8-1&keywords=nurture+shock

  87. Tracy says...

    Our son is biracial although he looks more Asian than white. He was truly color blind growing up. He’s not conscious of his ‘difference’ for the first few years of elementary school. He also never described his friends with color of skin, race, etc, he always called them by names. Then when 4th grade came around, the issue of race started popping up because some of his friends were bullying him and calling him slang for Asian/Chinese people. He didn’t understand why him being part of his mom to be a ‘bad’ thing or something for him to be teased about, to some of his friends. We have since educated him more about diversity and race relations and I’ve since then been very open about talking about race and what’s going on with the world (as for the bullying thing, we’ve talked about it with his principal and his teacher, it’s an ongoing thing). He’s more aware now (he’s in 6th grade now), but bless his heart, still very innocent and almost color-blind when it comes to things.

  88. Thank you so much for this post Joanna! I live in Minneapolis, and if you had asked me a year or 2 ago I would have proudly said we don’t have a race problem, because I honestly believed that to be true. It wasn’t until recently that I saw that we really do, but my while privilege has always shielded me from it. With two small girls, I have thought lots on how to discuss race, class and gender with my children. How to educate their little minds to be kindhearted and free thinking. I appreciate this explanation on how to discuss gender, not with the idea of colorblind, but to discuss colors. It’s the same teachings I do with them toward disabilities (not ignore then, rather ask questions and understand them). I appreciate this more than you know! Thank you for posting about topics like this!

    xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  89. Kim says...

    A great resource for finding children’s books about diversity is readbrightly.com. They have several blog posts regarding this very topic and give book suggestions for young children and teenagers. Also I highly recommend the Ordinary People Change the World Series. In the series there is a book about Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Abraham Lincoln, as well as others. These books started conversations about race with my 2 kids.

  90. Esty says...

    Thanks for this post! My husband is black, and I am white. Our 3 year old son is biracial. Although my husband and I openly talk about color and race, I’ve noticed that my husband is reluctant to emphasize race or even his own racial identity with our son. When I asked my husband about this, he said he was concerned about our son becoming aware of too many of our country’s injustices at a young age. His thought is that he’ll soon learn that the black male identity comes with unique struggles and that he might as well maintain his innocence in the meantime. Given that my husband (obviously) has a much more personal understanding of the racism faced by black males in America, I’ve followed his lead. My husband experienced a lot of racism growing up, and I understand his desire to protect our son (especially in light of recent events in the news). But I also wonder if it would be better to address racism in a more proactive way earlier on. Would be curious to know if your guests had any thoughts on how to deal with this urge to protect children from the racism they’ll surely encounter while also helping them understand race and difference in a productive way.

    • Cynthia says...

      I love that your husband wants to protect your son. Three seems like a very tender age to discuss what could be a fear-promoting subject. I’m not sure what is the right age for these conversations but as a seasoned parent, I would lean toward a child’s question or observation becoming the starting point. Otherwise there is no context. I like all the book suggestions and think this is helpful for providing some talking points.

    • Joanna (not that one) says...

      You might want to check out a book called “I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World.” One of the points that the author makes is that in the early years, parents of Black kids should do as much as they can to ‘build up’ their kids so they feel strong and resilient enough to cope with the racism they will, unfortunately, inevitably encounter. She promotes positive talk about Blackness and open discussion of race but also not pushing adult conceptions of race onto kids until they are developmentally ready to deal with it. It kind of sounds like this is what your husband is doing. As another white mom of a black son (via adoption, in my case), I found the author’s perspective helpful (even though the title made me cringe!)

  91. savala says...

    A thousand thank yous, Joanna!

  92. Ah Joanna, I’m so happy this blog exists. Thank you for always sharing insights and suggestions for the better good. Such a hopeful (and helpful) post to read to begin the week…

  93. May says...

    Quote Sachi: ” I might say to my children: ‘We live in a world that’s unfair. People are not treated the same all the time, and that has to do with how we look sometimes. People who are white don’t have to worry about this, but people who are black do sometimes.'”

    People who are white also sometimes have to worry about being treated unfairly. Treating a child as a person is more respectful and important. Inform them with equal care addressing the core of what racism is instead of carving deeper lines that are already unfair and unnecessary.

    • Samantha says...

      Completely agree with you. Anyone can find themselves in a discriminating situation, not just minorities. Telling white kids that white people don’t have to worry about being treated unfairly only makes them wonder if they’re being too sensitive towards a situation that IS discriminating, it could make them ignore the situation or feel less proactive about seeking help.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I don’t think she meant that white people are never treated unfairly. (Of course, everyone in the world has times where they’re treated unfairly.) But I think she meant that white people don’t have to worry about being confronted with racism and micro-aggressions and a history of inequality in the same way at all. That is a really important difference to realize.

    • The way I best understand it is this: No one is saying you won’t be treated unfairly if you are white. But your whiteness will not be the CAUSE for the unfair treatment.

      To me, that is the crux of understanding what white privilege is.

    • NSU says...

      If you read this and your first response is “but what about white people…?” I’m afraid you’re part of the problem.
      Everyone faces prejudice. Racism is systemic and structural.

    • Madie says...

      Yes, Joyce! That’s an excellent way of putting it. Thanks!

  94. “Some parents will say, “I don’t want to mention that someone’s black,” and I say, “Black people aren’t upset that they’re black.” I think it’s important to dispel that idea.”

    I second this x1000.

    I never truly realized how I hesitant I was to label people “black” until I found myself as a member of a predominately black basketball team in college. All the black girls would call themselves black and call other black people black and call white people white. And then all the white freshmen girls (myself included) would go out of our way to never mention race. Often using other, less descriptive adjectives.

    Ex. Me: “The short girl always drives left.”
    Black teammate: “You mean the short black girl?”

    The crazy thing was, I don’t know where I got the idea I couldn’t mention race. I must have just picked it up along the way?

    Finally my teammates told me (and the rest of us hesitant white girls): “You can call us black. And we’ll call you white. It’s fine.”

    I only wish I learned that as a child, rather than a 19 year old!

  95. Emily says...

    Thank you for this important great post!

  96. Debbie says...

    I really, really enjoyed this post! Thank you for sharing and participating in this conversation. I’d love to see more posts like this.

    As a soon-to-be (due in April!) mother, I’m already thinking about how I’m going to talk about race with my child. I’m mixed race (half Filipino/half white) and my husband’s white, so they’ll be 1/4 Filipino.

  97. Jehanara says...

    I wish there was a Muslim woman/mother’s perspective shown here too, we need to start teaching kids not only about skin color but also religion (or lack thereof)and how different does not translate into dangerous. It would be wonderful to see how an average Muslim family navigates everyday life, prejudices and issues surrounding raising children in order to help them assimilate and at the same time not go through an identity crisis.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes, for sure! Really, really important. Thank you. xoxo

    • Lizzie says...

      Thank you- I love that you include Muslim people as well as non- believers.

  98. yael steren says...

    One thing I thought was interesting and a great idea, I heard from my sister. She told me that kids no longer say sit Indian style. Instead you say sit criss cross style. I’m curious what else schools are doing. I personally don’t have kids so I hear everything from my sister who has 3 of them! xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

    • Steph says...

      so weird Yael, my sis in law just told me this yesterday about my nephew’s daycare… she told him to sit Indian style, and he didn’t know what she meant!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! in our boys’ schools, they say “criss-cross applesauce.”

    • Criss cross applesauce has been the norm since at least the late 90s when I started teaching little one’s. It surprised me at first, but I quickly understood the importance of that change.

  99. Marie says...

    What a wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you so much.

    As a teacher in a diverse elementary school, we talk about race in our art classes: We line up all of the students’ hands side-by-side and take a picture, then have everyone talk about the colors they see (without knowing which hand belongs to which person). The kiddos are always surprised at how a “white” person’s hands may be darker than a “black” person’s hands, for example. We then talk about how we are all different shades of the same color palette. It’s a great activity to spark conversation.

  100. Gabrielle says...

    So happy to see this conversation here. My kids are mixed race- I’m white, my husband is half African American and half Thai. We have conversations about race all day, everyday because a) it’s our reality (“Mama, why are you white and I’m brown?” and b) we don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. PLEASE don’t shy away from this. Ignoring color and race only serves to preserve white privilege and feeds into people of color feeling more invisible and marginalized.

  101. Lali says...

    Really enjoyed this—thanks for posting.

  102. M. says...

    I’m a white mother to a black son and this is wonderful – black kids can’t afford to be colorblind and it not an appropriate approach to discussing race. People notice color. Race is a daily topic in our house and all parents should seek out books and movies/tv shows with black characters, point out famous people (like the president!) that are black, and seek out friends for themselves and their children of all races (this is probably easier where we live in Brooklyn, but should be a priority for everyone).

    • Hillary says...

      Thank you for these suggestions. I am very conscious about doing this with different families (2 fathers, 2 mothers, etc.) but for the reasons discussed above have not been as intentional about race. I will put these suggestions into my daily practice.

  103. Anna says...

    Jo,
    This is so important! I would also recommend the book “From Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown” by Malathi Michelle Iyengar. It’s a gorgeous series of poems that introduce race in a wonderfully descriptive way for young readers – combined with the People Colors Crayons suggested, you’ve got a fun activity and a great lesson :)

  104. Amanda says...

    So good. I recently attended the baby shower of a dear friend who is about to give birth to a biracial baby, and while searching for a book to fulfill the request that we fill the baby’s bookshelves, I was astounded at how few books there were featuring children of color (though I settled on a very cute one – “Ada Twist, Scientist” by Andrea Beaty). I think so much about how the children in my life – regardless of race – need to see diverse representations of race, beauty, intelligence, profession, etc. Even if we are having wonderful, open conversations about race, I think it’s so helpful for media, books, and other images children are consuming to reflect those values, as well. Thankful for the resources shared, and hopeful that we’ll see an ever-expanding availability of them!

    • My all-time favorite baby book that I give to all of my friends is “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” by Mem Fox. I love it because it’s a cute counting book with lots of sweet babies, a cadence that seems to really calm cranky babes, and an ending guaranteed to make a new mom cry (in a good way!), but it also causally addresses race. Each little baby is a different color, and from a different part of the world, but they are all sweet friends and they all have ten little fingers and ten little toes. The nurse holding the first baby, the first baby, and the mother and baby in the end are all white, but it’s still a really good message overall.

    • Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been unsure how to address this with my daughter (4.5) and it seems the answer really is to just talk about it! She notices skin color for sure, and I often am taken aback or at a loss of how to respond to her when she talks about it…especially if I think they may be in earshot! Having conversations about these issues may help though. It just always surprised me when she brought it up since we have friends that are black and many other races.

    • I was going to add – one of our favorite baby books is Cinnamon Baby. It’s a lovely story and (completely unmentioned) about a biracial couple.

  105. Sophia says...

    Thanks for yet another throughful post on a touchy and timely topic (I love love this blog). The key is we can’t be so afraid of offending people, or being polically correct that we ignore the value in respecting and appreciating our differences. Just as I am not upset that I’m a woman, I’m not upset that my skin is brown. BUT just as I hate being stereotyped or treated differently because I’m a woman. I hate being stereotyped and treated differently because of my skin color. I think by saying skin color doesn’t matter it’s naively ignoring a history of behaviors that says otherwise. It also strips me of part of my identity and perpetuates the thinking that people of color don’t want to acknowledge or celebrate their differences. Until ALL racial biases are gone we have to do our part to acknowledge race as a positive attribute vs a negative. Skin color has to matter because it makes us more vigilant about normalizing race and dispelling stereotypes.

    Women’s rights were important 100 years ago and they are still important today. The same for the fight against racial bias and injustices. If we don’t remember the past we are destined to repeat it.

  106. Barbara says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this important resource – such a critical tool for parents and people in general.

  107. Thank you for bringing together a great group of women to help bring this topic to the table. This is such an important topic to discuss with our kids!

  108. I love this and agree completely. I love Mellody Hobson’s TED Talk on being colorBRAVE. Check it out! She is incredible!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that term! going to check this out, thank you!!

  109. Julia says...

    Thank you so, so much for this. I’m going to devour all the suggested articles. My little guy just turned 3 and the subject of race has been on my mind lately. (I mean, how could it not be in light of all that’s going on in the country?) I feel lucky that my son’s school is fairly diverse and have been wondering if now is too soon to raise the subject of skin color. According to Lori and Sachi it’s not! Here’s to raising race conscious kids. Thanks again.

  110. Thank you for connecting us to Lori and Sachi. These ideas are simple and practical. They truly break down the huge, controversial topic of race in America into terms we can easily use with kiddos. Thank you!

  111. Karen says...

    Thank you, Jo.

  112. Dylan says...

    It’s neat to see your growth in talking about race. It’s so, so important. My first lesson about race came when I was maybe 5 or 6; my grandma used to spoil me with Barbie dolls and one day my dad had me pick just 4 to keep and donate the rest. I picked 4 white, blond haired, blue eyed barbie and my black and brown Barbies ended up in the donate pile. My dad immediately noticed, and asked me why I had chosen only white dolls. An impromptu race conversation followed about the importance of diversity and why my black and brown Barbies were pretty too, and it has stuck with me ever since.

    • Lauren E. says...

      Weirdly enough, my first experience talking about race stemmed from dolls, too. I had a veritable rainbow when it came to my dolls’ skin colors but a friend of mine was not “allowed” to have the Addy doll from American Girl. I didn’t understand why and I remember my parents having to begin the racism conversation with me.

  113. Bravo, bravo Joanna and CoJ writers! So proud of you for tackling this important topic.

  114. Milka says...

    I have seriously been wondering about this! Thank you! It seems a lot of racial education for kids is about the past and I wanted a way to talk about our present & future with my kids.

  115. mandy says...

    thanks so much for posting! i think about this a lot when i consider having kids and what i want to teach them. will certainly be referencing this in the future!

  116. Nicky says...

    Thank you for this post! My other half and I don’t have kids yet but I’ve been wondering how to bring this up to my future kids who will be biracial, growing up in a community that is not very diverse. This is also a good read for us adults and a reminder that we could all benefit from being conscious of this and more thoughtful every day.

  117. Katherine A-E says...

    Thank you for this! I have been reading your blog since 2011 and feel like you’re a good friend of mine :) Thank you times a million for addressing race. I am so excited that you posted this and I hope the trend continues. You are a huge influence in the lives of many – the world needs your voice on this. I also really appreciate the way you did it. The interview format with experts makes a lot of sense. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  118. Guin says...

    This is amazing. I am really appreciative of this especially because our children, if we have biological children, will be half Filipino and half white (I’m white). I don’t want to erase that part of their heritage by never calling attention to it. I grew up in a very liberal household, and my mom had grown up in a pretty racist small town so she was very careful of how we talked about race at home to try and dispel her particular demons (like, not referring to someone as “the black guy” but trying to use other descriptors, and never EVER using race as a pejorative). As I take a hard, long look at how I think about race and prejudice, I’m finding that silence or intentional avoidance of that is also not great. It’s complicated, but avoidance and silence is the height of my own privilege. So thank you for shining some light on this!

  119. Amelia says...

    This is fantastic. Thank you for bringing this conversation into your community and doing it with such excellent facilitators.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, lori and sachi are so intelligent and thoughtful. it was an honor to speak to them.

  120. Charli says...

    SO happy to see this here! Thank you!

  121. I’m a first generation Mexican-American, and it does make me upset that the representation of my family (and me) in the media is not my truth. I do believe we can make a change by starting at home and educating children about this, so that maybe in their future they can change the stereotypes.

    I think another thing that isn’t as stressed upon is not only what a person looks like, but also what they sound like. Having an accent isn’t a sign of intelligence (or lack thereof). If you’re not a fluent English speaker, being bilingual in this country can definitely be seen as a weakness to some, and I’ve seen how it’s discriminated against.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, such a good point, laura! thank you so much for sharing.

    • Erin Mary says...

      This is an amazing point and it reminds me of my roommate in college (first generation American, kid of Vietnamese immigrants). She said one day “it really bothers me that people judge my dad for his heavy accent. He learned English as an adult…I’d like to see them try to do that.” it was such a “oh, duh, why didn’t I think of that!” moment for me- that we should be shifting the narrative to “holy heck, you have an accent- that means you speak multiple languages and that’s a serious accomplishment”.

    • Brinkley says...

      Good point! In high school in Florida, I had a Spanish teacher from Puerto Rico. She said, “Never judge someone for their accent; it means they speak one more language than you do!”

  122. stephanie says...

    I LOVE this article. Thank you for posting this. As a white woman who tries to be an ally to the BLM movement and POC, I struggle with my desire to learn as much as I can about racial injustice versus not making the movement / the members of the movement have to stop their important work to give me racism in the US 101 type information. I am saving this for future reference!

  123. Jenn says...

    Such an important topic. Thank you for posting!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, elle!

  124. Gabrielle says...

    Once again, a fantastic post! Thanks for continuing to discuss all facets of life–including those that might not be comfortable for some readers. Cup of Jo continues to be my favorite lifestyle blog for this very reason!

  125. Amy P says...

    Thank you for posting about this! We live in a pretty white area of Canada (and not because it snows here…ha!) and I’m so thankful that when she started public school this fall I noticed there were a few kids of varying skin tones and backgrounds in her class. I’ve always tried to be pretty matter-of-fact that people come in all colours when she’s noticed darker skinned people at stores or in books, but because I wasn’t really raised in a diverse area either I don’t have a lot of experience with how to talk about diversity. Keep the posts (and book recommendations) coming!

  126. Katy L says...

    I feel lucky to live in a racially and culturally diverse and liberal place. My daughters have friends with all different skin tones, their best friends are black and Asian, our neighbors are Indian and Mexican, our school has many African and Middle Eastern families where the girls wear hijab. We talked a lot about differences from the beginning by comparing the skin tones of our own pale skin arms in a rainbow (pink to olive in one family) . But in kindergarten, my daughter became very fascinated by Martin Luther King from school and that was when we talked about mistreatment and society and how it is still a struggle to break down these barriers. Unfairness comes as a natural shock to a child, I think, and it’s easy to empathize with when you have friends who are different from yourself. We loved the Global Babies and Todd Parr books from a young age too. As a parent, I feel like instilling a sense of kindness and social justice and awareness is my biggest job.

  127. MA says...

    Thank you for posting this! I look forward to reading more by Lori and Sachi. I recently started using “black” and “white” instead of dark-skinned/light-skinned when talking to my kids just to try to be consistent with how we talk about this important topic in our broader society. We live in a pretty diverse place and so do refer to skin color as an identifying trait when describing people. But my 10 year old son still uses shades when referring to skin color of his friends and classmates, e.g., I asked the other day if a friend that my son was referring to was the black kid, and he responded no, he’s the light brown one. So I don’t know, maybe I’m confusing things more!

  128. Renée says...

    Bravo! Thank you for this timely, thoughtful post.

  129. Andrea says...

    Joanna: Brava! I have been a reader of yours since ’09 and have never commented before but can’t hold back, I am so excited that you posted this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Andrea says...

      (I am white and do not yet have children. I run an elementary school in Brooklyn that serves 450 black boys and I think about how we talk about race with children all the time. I have lots more text recommendations if you’re interested! Thank you, again.)

  130. Gina says...

    I have been looking for a post like this! Our daughter (Asian) has recently come home from school and has started to describe her friends as Chinese, Black, etc… except for all her White friends who don’t get any extra descriptor. I had never really thought about it.. but it really is an internalized bias. Will def use these to open up a conversation. Thank you for this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what an interesting point. thank you so much, gina.

  131. Jessica Nare says...

    This is so important- thank you.

  132. Kathleen says...

    I’m a mom to two biracial children (I’m white, my husband is black) and we are preparing ourselves to be honest and clear about questions as they arise (this also holds with questions about gender, etc.)

    Right now, it’s really just about what they can see, and my son is so proud of his darker skin and curly hair. His preschool class did body tracings and then they all painted outfits and faces and accessories on their traced “bodies.” But my son just did a splotch of brown paint, and a splotch of white paint. As explanation: “I’m a little bit brown, and a little bit white!” But I really appreciate the point that using racial terms (rather than objective descriptions of color) is also important.

    One other piece of writing that struck me (it was picked up by the Washington Post) was this: http://www.amusingmaralee.com/2015/12/to-the-white-parents-of-my-black-sons-friends/ which touches on many of the issues that you raised above.

  133. Lisa says...

    Thank you for this! My kids are 5 and almost 3. My husband is Mexican American, but then so is half of our city. Our children are tan with hazel and blue eyes and dark blonde hair. We’ve talked very generally about “oh, your skin is a little more brown than mine; daddy’s hair is black” but I’m so hesitant to establish this idea of “otherness”. I doubt that even makes sense, but I love the simple suggestions for how to approach the inequalities people face.

  134. This is so great and SO important to talk about! Thank you for discussing it here. As a children’s book writer and illustrator, not to mention mom, this is constantly on my mind. Another great resource is http://weneeddiversebooks.org

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great site, thank you!

  135. Susanne says...

    Thank you for posting this. The fact that you are using your site to help the very necessary “larger conversation about race” makes me feel hopeful.

    • Exactly this! Thank you, Joanna

    • Totally agree with this! Thank you for this post.