The Hardwired Emotions
April 9, 2012
Addressing Racism
April 22, 2012
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Stand Against Racism

Skin color handprints

Becoming an Anti-Racist Educator and Parent:

Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin in their book The First R : How Children Learn about Race and Racism document a year they spent in an exemplary multicultural preschool listening to three- and four-year-olds talk about skin color and race. What they learned was that even very young children are aware of how skin color impacts their place in society. Children learn about race from the silence that greets them when they, in their natural curiosity, ask their parents why that person is a different color or when they hear adults talking about another race in a way that marks difference. These racialized attitudes envelop our children in an invisible fog of prejudice. "Most young children in our study," Van Ausdale and Feagan write, "are helping to build, or rebuild, a racialized society with their own hands with materials learned from the racial order of the adult world surrounding them." (p. 21)

As parents and educators we need to take steps to intervene in this process. One way to do this is to demystify skin color. At the age of two children are curious about why people look different. By the age of seven they know it makes people uncomfortable to talk about it. However, that is exactly what we need to do. Talk about it. and talk about it. Talk to everyone but especially to children.

There is a marvelous bilingual children's book All the Colors That We Are by Katie Kissinger that provides a scientific explanation of skin color differences. The book is aimed at preschoolers. the text is simple with two to three sentences per page. But can be used at any age. It introduces the three ways we get our skin color: from the amount of melanin in our skin, from the sun, and from our ancestors. In my school we have read this book to hundreds of children. It has been eye-opening. "I always wondered about that," one child said. "I was curious why our skin was different." said another.

What else can we do?

1. Become anti-racist...

  • Examine your own beliefs.
  • Confront your biases
  • Learn where your beliefs come from.
  • Be a role model.
  • Learn more about other cultures and races.
  • Make friends with people from all races.
  • Take a stand and address issues of racial biases when you see/hear it.
  • Persevere: Don't let lack of interest or cycism of others stop you from taking action.

2. Visit:

3. Read: 40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child by Barbara Mathias & Mary Ann French

4. Sign up to participate in the YWCA Stand Against Racism Day on April 27th

Computer generated single branch of a family t...

Computer generated single branch of a family tree extending 350+ generations. Shows inheritance of skin, hair, color. "the descent from Adam" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.


  1. I love the skin color activity. It’s an eye opener for kids who haven’t thought about why they call a person “black” or “white”.

    • Having done this activity with hundreds of children I can vouch for it’s effectiveness in opening the conversation about skin color and addressing children’s natural curiosity. One thing we talk about is that our palms are a different color from our skin because the palm has less melanin and you can see the blood underneath more easily. If you are thinking of doing this, here are some things I have found helpful. Put the paint on styrofoam plates. Use white, brown, yellow, and red to mix the skin colors. Children can mix their individual hand color on a sheet of newspaper using a paint brush. It takes less paint than you think. I use about 4 pints to do 700 hands. Let me know if you try this activity for Stand Against Racism Day.

  2. I am so glad you are doing this activity. Have fun.

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