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'Raising White Kids' author shares tips for talking to children about racism

The League of Education Voters hosted Dr. Jennifer Harvey to talk about parenting for racial justice. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Dr. Jennifer Harvey is an award winning educator and author of the book Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America. 

Dr. Harvey is a Professor of Religion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa; but recently talked with the Washington League of Education Voters' Arik Korman about parenting for racial justice. 

Below are five takeaways from the conversation: 

1.  See Color 

"Colorblindness is a kind of aggression because it's ignoring what people of color have told us is true.  They say I want my identity recognized, acknowledged, and celebrated.  We need to explicitly reject it. It doesn't work and it's not a compliment." 

2.  Talk about Race (Hint: There is no "too young") 

"If I want to raise children who believe in the value of sharing, I don't want to wait until they are 13 when they are conceptually able to choose her behavior around sharing, right?  I start talking about it when she's a toddler.  We have studies that show kids learn by 4 or 5 that they are not supposed to talk to adults about race.  That's a huge red flag.  We don't want our kids learning from other children about race."

3.  Read books with diverse characters 

"It's important to talk about what you are seeing.  'this little girl looks like she might be African-American; and she's White-American and her skin looks peach and she's wearing a backpack."  You are normalizing the behavior."

4.   Model the Behavior 

 "How do we teach kids to address racism? Well, we teach it the same way we do everything else.  The #1 sin of white families... we have a get-together, someone says something racist, so you go silent.  You say, 'well, we're not going to change Aunt Sue's mind anyway, conflict isn't worth it.'  Well guess what our children saw us model?  When you see racism, you are supposed to be quiet and look the other way." 

5.  Take Action 

 "Protests are important and they matter and there are a million ways to support those movements without yourself being in the streets, especially with young children and when police violence might be involved. Our kids can make signs and put it on your house if you can't go tor protests. You could have legislative involvement.  Writing a letter to the mayor."

You can watch the entire conversation here. On her website, Dr. Harvey has more parenting resources, including online courses.

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