Should We Talk to Our Children About Race?
The question of whether or not we should talk to our children about race has been an ongoing issue and concern. The issue of race is one of those things we have to agree to disagree, as no one is entirely right or wrong. In today’s society it is not only irresponsible but dangerous to avoid discussions related to race, inequalities, and other differences. One of the many erroneous assumptions made about our world include the theory we live in world of colorblindness. Being colorblind suggests we live in world that does not include observation of differences, everyone is viewed in the same manner, we should avoid visible differences, talk about race, or acknowledge differences exist. The theory behind colorblindness is noble at least, dangerous at best as we are often encouraged to avoid judgement of other based upon the color of their skin, rather the content of their character. Unfortunately, there are going to be some people that do not share these noble sentiments, will teach their children how to hate, judge others based upon the color of their skin, their religion, orientation, etc., while other children are being taught tolerance and acceptance. When there is a disconnect on this very important issue or the manner in which we communicate differences it creates an environment where we feel uncomfortable talking about and acknowledging differences in race.
Research conducted on the topic of race suggest children notice and think about race more than most parents are aware of. In a world with such a large melting pot of race and culture, children are going to be exposed to race-related issues at some point in their lives, therefore they need to be educated and prepared to deal with both perceived positive and negative assumptions. One of the worst things a parent can do is not talk to their children about race, create a false environment that everyone lives and is treated equally, and ignore their children’s questions about racial differences and both historic and current inequalities. Some children may even witness acts of exclusion or rejection based on race, or will be targets of discrimination themselves, thus leading to confusion, feelings of being less than, not good enough, etc. Failure to educate leads to confusion, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and difficulty managing challenges and discrimination based on race. It is for this reason discussions about race are so important, as ongoing discussions provide children with the necessary framework for understanding racial, economic, physical, and societal differences.
Here are a Few Reason Why Race Discussions Are So Important:
Discussions about race will occur with or without parents. Children and adolescents typically have conversations about race with friends and other peers. Unfortunately, most of the information contained in these discussions are usually plagued with erroneous information, distorted facts, and negative stereotypes.
Having discussions about race can aid children with creating strategies to address racism. When children are confronted with racial discrimination or aggressive acts based upon their race they often respond with fear, anxiety, confusion, and even anger. By understanding differences, obtaining accurate information, as well as the foundation surrounding some of our current racial issues we increase both conversation, understanding, and tolerance.
Skin color does matter, in different ways for different people. For example, discussions about skin color can be used to teach children out their racial and ethnic origins, instill pride, appreciate differences, etc. However, conversations should also convey how skill color and culture has been used to discriminate a race or races of people, fuel hate, depreciate the value of another, limit or prevent options or rights of others, etc. Children should also receive education pertaining to why in some neighborhoods, people to do trust or are weary of law enforcement officers, how this lack of understanding creates barriers for understanding, and builds fear on both sides.
Understanding one group or race of people is not inheritably bad, that each person is an individual with independent thoughts, beliefs, and actions that is not reflective of their entire race.
To the surprise of some people, the differences in race is noticeable in children at a very young age, as they are more likely to become visually fixated on color or features that are unfamiliar to them. Because children are able to recognize differences at a very young age it is only fair that parents acknowledge those differences. By acknowledging differences, you reduce the likelihood of children developing fears about those that are different, rather acceptance of those differences are likely to follow. No one is saying that having conversations with your child about race will be easy, but it also does not have to be hard. The most effective way to ensure your child receives the most accurate information is through education, then by trial or error, or having to explain an act of prejudice and discrimination after it has occurred. However, in light of the current state of our world, conversations about race should not be an elective process but a conversation that needs to occur.