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Talking about Race with White Kids

Recent news events have made it more important than ever to talk with all of our Children about race and about racism in the United States. While families of color often have these conversations, I have found that white families often have more trouble with navigating these topics.

My grade-level team and I shared the following information with families in our fifth-grade classes. I hope it gives you some tips and some resources for talking about race with the white kids in your life.


Dear families,

We have been shocked and saddened by the murder of George Floyd. We recognize that this is only one of many unjustified murders of people of color and we are deeply disappointed at the ongoing systemic racism in our nation. We find hope in the fact that so many people have reacted to this tragedy by speaking out and standing up against injustice. We learned about the power of peaceful protest in our study of the first amendment earlier this year, and this moment provides a powerful teaching moment for parents and teachers.

To our families of color: we know you are hurting and we are working as educators to help shape children who do not perpetuate this same hurt in the future.

One way to teach at this moment is to have conversations with children about race.


We understand it can be difficult to know what to say. Here are some helpful resources:
How to Talk to Kids About Race and Racism
Beyond the Golden Rule – page 17 is especially helpful
Talking about Race – this is from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture.

If we were in the classroom, here are some questions we would use to discuss these issues with your children. We hope they will help you as well.

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You can start by asking:

*What do you know? What have you seen/heard? (This allows the conversation to flow naturally from the child’s perspective.)

*How are you feeling?
*How do you think the people in this image, video, etc. were feeling?
*Do you know why they felt that way? (This allows children to identify their feelings and discuss various reactions to those feelings. It also allows them a chance to develop empathy for others. This is the time when children may wonder how they can help. See the questions below about being an “upstander.”)

*What is the difference between a bystander and an upstander?
*Where do you see each type of person in the current news/in your life?
*What opportunities do you have to be an upstander?

*What is an example of inequity you saw today/this week?
*How did you counter it, or how could you counter it next time?

*What is a question/wondering you still have?

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A good way to help focus students on thinking about what they can do to make changes is to use Fred Rogers’ famous quote about looking for the helpers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Helping can take many forms. Talking about racism is one way to start.

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As educators, we know that the history of racial injustice extends to schools and classrooms. Please know that we work to provide the best educational experience for every child. We are committed to learning and listening. Please reach out to us with any questions.

Here are more resources we shared with parents.

Children’s books:
*The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul

*A Kid’s Book about Racism by Jelani Memory

*All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

*New Kid by Jerry Craft

*One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

*Blended by Sharon M. Draper

*Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Books for adults:

*White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

*How to Be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

*Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey

Other suggestions:
*Follow “The Conscious Kid” on Instagram

*Here is a document with many anti-racism resources

*Justice in June resources

*This short video will explain systemic racism and can be viewed with your children.

*Another powerful video – “When Did My Baby Become a Threat to You?”

*An article from CNN – “How to Not Raise a Racist White Kid”

I hope that these resources will be useful to you as a teacher or parent or friend of white children. They are eager to talk about what they see and hear. We all need to do more listening and learning.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
~Dr. Maya Angelou

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Talking about Race with White Kids


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