Dealing with racism is hard.

As I’m writing this, the North American world is in the midst of reeling in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbury, and Breonna Taylor. Protests and riots are filling the news and police brutality and systemic racism are topics being discussed everywhere.

In the midst of all of the things that are heartbreaking during this time, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because, while the violence is a terrible thing, the conversations it is pushing have been too long in coming and need to be had.

As parents, we worked hard to make sure that our kids had a diverse experience.

We intentionally built relationships in communities with people of every colour and of diverse lifestyles.

A large part of our desire to travel extensively with our kids was drawn from a wish for them to see and experience the world as it really is and to live in places where they were the minority as a means to developing compassionate understanding. Evenso, their white skin went with them and the privilege that is attached to it followed. There’s no avoiding that, so we talked about it. A lot. Constantly.

We didn’t (don’t) always get it right. But we have worked to grow forward together, to develop active listening skills as individuals and as a family, and to acknowledge our own biases and our experience of race as white people within the rainbow of people who inhabit the planet. It’s heartening to see my adult kids now engaging in activism and using their privilege to work towards leveling the playing field. We aren’t there yet (not by a long shot) and there is still work to be done.

This week, I wanted to put together a list of resources for parents to use in conversations with their children about systemic racism and family activism. It’s not enough just to speak the right words, we must take action and responsibility together.

If you have resources to add to this list, please send them over!

Things to Read:

This book is for adults and teens.

Written by a white lady, for white people. If you don’t yet understand the difference between racist acts vs. racism, this book will break it down for you.

It will also help you unpack the ways in which white people’s fragility when it comes to discussions of race is impeding progress. Ever said, “Not all white people…” or made a move
to correct or defend your position when challenged by a conversation on race? This book is for you.

In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo does a masterful job of helping white people see whiteness as a racial issue and helping us pull that massive plank out of our own eye before pointing at others. It’s a call to cultivating the stamina and humility we need to have the really hard conversations that are necessary to advocate for change.

I highly recommend every parent read this to help frame and steer the inevitable conversations you’ll have with your kids, no matter how young.

Required reading for young adults

This is billed as “young adult” fiction, but The Hate U Give is truly required reading for anyone who wants to begin to understand what it’s like to grow up black in America.

I’ve recommended this book before. I’ll recommend it again.

READ IT. Make your teen kids read it. Talk about it. Get uncomfortable. That’s where the change starts.

How to Choose Anti-Bias Children’s Books

The Social Justice Books project, by Teaching for Change, has compiled this helpful guide for parents and teachers on how to evaluate a book for bias and how to choose books to use with your kids that are anti-bias.

If you’re not sure where to start or what you’re looking for, I highly recommend starting with this list.

They have also compiled an incredible 60 book lists of multicultural and social justice books for children, young adults, and educators.

Compiled by EmbraceRace.org this list has summaries of 31 incredible books just for kids to open conversations about race and de-colonize history. No matter what you are using to teach history, you should be intentionally adding books that are from a non-white perspective. For too long, the narrative of history has been a white, Colonialist one. This list will help you change that.

Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness.

To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression.​

Beyond addressing issues of race and racism, this children’s reading list focuses on taking action. It highlights resistance, resilience and activism; and seeks to empower youth to participate in the ongoing movement for racial justice.

These books showcase the diverse ways people of all ages and races have engaged in anti-racist activism, and highlight how race intersects with other issues, such as capitalism, class and colonization. The majority of books center activists of color, whose lives and bodies have been on the front lines of racial justice work, yet whose stories often go untold.

The essential work of white activists is also included — to underscore that anti-racist work is not the responsibility of people of color; and exemplify the ways white allies have stood up against racial injustice. This list was curated by critical literacy organizations, The Conscious Kid and American Indians in Children’s Literature.”

Websites & Blogs to Read

The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers. Our flagship initiative is 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by Black creators. You can read more about the members of The Brown Bookshelf here.

On the Latinxs in Kid Lit site you’ll find a range of books for children and young adults that highlight the Latinx experience… dive deep, there is some really good stuff here!

Their vision is to:

  • Engage with works about, for, and/or by Latinxs.
  • Offer a broad forum on Latinx children’s, MG, and YA books.
  • Promote literacy and the love of books within the Latinx community.
  • Examine the historical and contemporary state of Latinx characters.
  • Encourage interest in Latinx children’s, MG, and YA literature among non-Latinx readers.
  • Share perspectives and resources that can be of use to writers, authors, illustrators, librarians, parents, teachers, scholars, and other stakeholders in literacy and publishing.

How to Talk to Kids About Race

How to talk to kids about race and books that can help is a great resource list of books for adults to advance their own learning and books for kids that will help open discussions.

21 Podcasts That Confront Racism in America

Podcasts alone won’t fix the undeniable racism, inequality, and injustice that Black Americans face, but they can deepen our understanding of the oppressive systems at work and our role in abolishing them today and every day. 

Here are 21 podcasts that help you confront anti-Black racism head on. This is by no means an exhaustive list — in fact, think of it as your starter kit to being a more informed ally.

Movies That Tackle Racism in America

Common Sense Media has compiled a great list of black history movies that tackle racism in America with wonderful little summaries as well as a suggested age that children will be ready for the movie.

Super helpful.

Here are 17 more films, shows, and documentaries that can help educate your tweens and teens about race.

Try This: Open Dialogue With Your Kids

Even very young kids can have conversations about race. Ours started when our not-quite-year old daughter freaked out when her godfather entered the room with his hair “out.” He always wore it in braids, but this morning, he’d brushed it out into an afro and the difference shocked her. We all laughed. He ran upstairs and put his hair “away” and then we all sat down to talk about why Poppy’s hair was different from hers. The conversations continued from there and took us around the world.

If you’re not sure where to start, turn on the news and look for current events to open the door to discussion. Or work to decolonize your bookshelf, art collection, and music repertoire. Or choose a movie the presents an experience different from your own and talk through what you observe and learn.

And, of course, begin with yourself and let your kids see you actively working to develop your anti-racist powers through listening, studying, reading, discussing, and the historic and current issues. Lead by example in deconstructing the Colonialist narrative and broadening your kids’ understanding of the world and the people in it.

This is the very best of worldschooling, folks!

Do you have a resource towards developing anti-racism as a family? Please share it! We’re collecting them for ourselves and others!