Talking About Race with Children

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As we were leaving dance class, my five year old pointed to a classmate walking away with her mom and said, “She’s a black and white girl”.   This little girl happens to be a child of color and her mom happens to be white.  Given what I do for a living, maybe it’s not too surprising that my first thoughts were about race and that I wondered what questions or thoughts Olivia was going to present to me about race.  Fortunately, I took a moment to clarify:

Me:  What do you mean by black and white girl?

Olivia:  I mean she has a black and white bag.  It’s really cool and she likes black and white.  I’m more of a pink girl or a rainbow girl because really like my pink bag and things with lots of colors.

I had to laugh at myself a bit for jumping to conclusions, even in my own head, but I think it’s a good reminder that we can’t always assume that we know what our kids are thinking, asking or talking about!   It’s important to follow their lead so that we don’t miss opportunities to talk about important issues or conversely, start dispensing information they are not ready to understand or hear.

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