Talking to Preschoolers About Race
Children begin to notice race around age 3, and that is when adults need to start talking about it. From birth, however, we must prepare the environment to embrace and celebrate racial diversity. Make it an effort to talk to your preschoolers about race.
Parents and teachers are responsible for exposing children to images, stories, characters from varying races and heritage as early as possible. Real-life exposure to people from different races is ideal, but does not need to be forced.
Why must we make an effort to curate racial diversity? The belief that whiteness is “normal” prevails in our country, and this belief sets the stage for the mistreatment of black people. This is not just “the way it is”—it became this way because of our country’s history and we must consciously work to change it.
Color-blindness Is Not Enough
Many of us were taught growing up to draw attention away from race. The idea that we see a child as “just a boy” and “not a black boy” may appear to be anti-racist, but the truth is, it is not. The problem with this approach is that it normalizes whiteness and it completely undermines the qualities of being black along with the struggles that come with it.
Instead, it’s important to recognize race, celebrate diversity, and talk openly about racism and racial struggles.
Confront Your Own Racial Biases
Before we can educate our children for peace, we need to take some time to deconstruct our own racial biases. We need to be OK with facing this head on and without defensiveness, especially if we are white. We must step away from the individual will and see that we possess a collection of subtle assumptions that we have picked up throughout our lives. It is only after we take a good look at ourselves that we can break the cycle and raise our children differently.
Address Inequality In an Honest, Age-Appropriate Way
Bring up the history of racial injustice with little kids, even if they don’t ask. It’s important for them to know that our country has an imperfect past and that we still have work to do today. Be frank and explain clearly that white people people have been unkind and unfair to people just because of their skin color. Preschoolers can also understand and resonate with the concepts of fairness and kindness.
It’s fine and good to talk about progress, such as anti-segregation laws, but be careful not to imply that the problem is one of the past. It’s something we are still working on today.
No Peace Without Justice
Maria Montessori said that education’s highest and ultimate aim is to work for a peaceful society. Our society will never reach that point unless we dig deep and do the work that needs to be done so that all Americans are truly free. This means that we must make an effort to prepare an environment that fosters a love of diversity, and it means that we must be brave enough to talk with our littlest members of society about important issues.