All kids need a strong individual and group identity, but racism hurts the healthy development of both. Racism hurts our entire society. Whether you and the children in your care are directly affected by racism or your allies of those who are, engaging honestly and directly with little ones is the beginning of building racial literacy (the skills needed to talk thoughtfully about race and to identify and respond to racism). Here are resources to develop children’s understanding, curiosity, resilience, and empathy—and to prepare for the task of building a better world by standing up, standing tall, and standing together.
Explaining What is Race?
Building racial literacy is essential to thriving within the world as it is, while simultaneously striving to build an antiracist world. Children need to feel affirmed in what they notice about the people and world around them, while also equipped with language to understand.
Before watching the video with children:
Tell children they are going to meet a new Sesame Street friend, Wes!
Ask children, “what about yourself is the same as your friends? What about yourself is different from your friends?”. Children may bring up hair or eye color. Affirm that we are all different, and we have a lot that is the same.
After watching, you might:
Ask children, “what do you notice about your skin? your eyes? your hair?” Affirm students that it is normal that we are all different and that makes us who we are, but we are all the same.
Ask children, “what does ‘melanin’ mean? Do we all have it? What are some things we can’t tell about someone by looking at how much melanin they have?”. Affirm that having more or less melanin does not mean that you are more or less beautiful, smarter, or friendlier than someone else.
Reflect on how Wes’ dad supported the two children in noticing their differences. How did they relate their noticing to the world around them? What does this make you think as a parent or caregiver? What have been your experiences in having conversations about noticing race with your children?
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