I was raised not to notice skin color, it was polite and kind to be color blind to not acknowledge difference. That race doesn’t matter; all people are humans;
And if indeed you are taught that racism is learned, you’d think it would make sense don’t talk about race or skin color, then children’ won’t learn to be racist. If adults don’t point out the racial differences, kids won’t see them. But in fact the opposite is true.
If you don’t have explicit conversations with children about race, they will be drawing their own conclusions without adult guidance. Children, like all humans, categorize all day long. When they are young, they can only categorize using one attribute at a time. They use the most salient one, which is often color.
And when white parents use phrases like “we are all the same” that code is confusing for children. It ignores the physical differences a child sees without actually explaining that we aspire to have everyone treated equally.
White parents often wait until third grade to talk about race. But it is too late. Research shows it must happen earlier to be effective. If you don’t have practice, these conversations can seem hard, awkward, uncomfortable. But if you don’t try, children also lack the practice and vocabulary. And suddenly when they don’t know how to acknowledge differences a child may say something like “he looks like us,” setting up an “us versus them” paradigm.
Does your child have the vocabulary to talk about skin color and race? What conclusions would you want your child to draw? Do you know what they are really concluding? Ask them. Talk with them. Find out and feel free to share your findings.
You can learn more about the need to stop color blindness in Pro Bronson’s & Ashley Merryman’s Nurture Shock, Chapter 3 ” Why White Parents Don’t talk about Race.”
Here’s another great article written by Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton “Should we talk to young children about race?”
Stay tuned for ways I discuss race and skin color with kindergartners.