race, diversity

My brown boys as babies!

Sometimes talking about diversity and race can be uncomfortable. But as the world grows smaller--and people closer, there is no denying that it is important to raise tolerant children who understand that this Earth is a place filled with all different kinds of people.

My son is the only black boy in his class. There is another black girl and a few bi-racial children, but in a classroom of about 25, only five kids are of color. Since my older son began kindergarten last fall, I've found myself discussing race and diversity a lot more than I ever imagined. Once, he asked me if the dentist "liked black kids." I was stunned. For one, at the time I had never identified him as a "black kid"--he always referred to us as brown (which, technically we are) and I was cool with that. At least when we were "brown," I knew that his color reference was based on a real description of us as individuals, not a racial (and loaded) classification of an entire group.

I took a long pause after my son asked me the dentist question. A part of me was truly sad, not to mention shocked. Then, "Everyone likes black kids!" rolled off my tongue. Of course, that isn't always true. Still in the moment, I chose to make my child feel confident, and when it comes to talking race with children--all children--I think it's important to affirm the best in people.  On that note, my friends at momversation are discussing diversity in schools and neighborhoods right now. They've also offered 5 tips on talking to your kids about race that I'm happy to share:

  • Acknowledge differences that your child notices, but also emphasize the inner qualities that make us all part of one human race.
  • Don't judge your child's questions or make her feel ashamed.  Instead, answer questions directly and honestly and don't overexplain.  Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know," and answer only the questions that are asked.
  • Sometimes it's what you do, not what you say.  Don't use labeling terms around your child (the Asian man; the Black girl).  If others use labeling or even racist terms, let your child know that you disagree.
  • Expose your child to many different types of people and cultures.  Don't pretend everyone is the same, but make sure your kid knows that everyone should be treated equally.
  • Use books!  Multiracial Sky has a great list of books about race that you can read with your children.

Have you talked with your kids about race and diversity? Any other tips to share?