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...
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