Let's Talk About Race

Like with all things, silence speaks loudly. When we don’t talk about subjects that matter, we’re explicitly making a choice to be silent.

So, let’s talk about race.

By Momentous Institute | Sep 04, 2017

Without question, race is at the forefront of today’s conversations. For some, race has always been a critical issue and for others, national conversations about race are new. But no matter if you’ve been on the front lines of racial issues for decades or you’ve never really thought about it before, it’s as important as ever to dive into this important topic.

Like with all things, silence speaks loudly. When we don’t talk about subjects that matter, we’re explicitly making a choice to be silent.

So, let’s talk about race.

We will be diving into a new series here on our blog that discusses topics related to race, culture and identity. We’ll share some of our favorite books, appropriate language to use with kids, tools for self-reflections about our own race and backgrounds and more. We hope you’ll stick around as we dive into this important topic, and if you haven’t already, subscribe to get a post sent to your inbox each Monday.

Let’s get started.

First of all, it’s very important to note that children notice race. Research has disproven the commonly held belief that children only have biases if they’re taught them. Children form their own biases related to race not only from what they learn from parents and other adults, but from what they observe in their own surroundings. One researcher compared this to accents – if children only learned what they observe from their parents, the children of parents with accents would also have accents. But instead, children observe a variety of patterns from society, school, their community, etc. and adopt behaviors based on what they see.

Children naturally group people into categories. We say and do things all the time that perpetuate this, even in a harmless way. For example, how often do we say things like, “Hello boys and girls!” Children hear that there are two categories – boys and girls. Then they can expand on these categories to fit trends that they observe. Once they identify categories, they might start to notice that they’ve only ever seen girls doing certain things and boys doing other things. They may then determine that only boys or only girls can do certain things. When it comes to issues of race, even if children haven’t been taught explicitly that race is a way to categorize people, they may be doing it instinctually if they only see people of one race in one type of role.

When we choose not to say anything about race at all, or when we take a “colorblind” approach and say that we “don’t see race”, we allow children to continue to see these differences but we don’t help them understand them. We don’t give them opportunities to reflect on what makes people unique. This is important for all children – both white children and children of color. All children need the opportunity to learn that race is an important part of a person’s identity, that race helps make people unique, and that race is not the only defining characteristic of a person.

It can feel uncomfortable to talk about race with children. But it is important to approach conversations about race openly, just as we talk about any other topic. We will share more about race in the coming weeks. If you have questions or suggestions about topics you would like us to address, comment here or email us at blog@momentousinstitute.org.