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Discussing Race in White Families

  • The “Talk” is a parenting task that Black parents engage in with their children that  includes how to act when approached by the police and how to survive in a racist society. The ‘Talk’ is a form of racial socialization, a necessary practice that Black families engage in to prepare their children for likely experiences with racial discrimination.
    • It is well documented that White parents do not have these conversations with their children or inform their children of the negative outcomes of racial discrimination.  A commonly cited reason for the lack of engagement is that children are too young to understand, yet, racial bias has been shown to peak at elementary school ages. White families endorse a need to discuss race only when the child initiates the conversation or when there is heavy media coverage of racist events (i.e., the protests following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd). White parents also heavily practice “color blindness”, the ideology that racial identity does not matter. However, the practice of color blindness is harmful, as it disregards both the strengths and the discriminatory experiences of people of color.
    • It is imperative to have conversations with children as early as pre-school age and consistently discuss the topic of racial discrimination as children mature and more frequently witness social injustices.
    • To effectively talk with your child, you will need to educate yourself on racism. Don’t ask your Black friend(s) to talk to your children for you. Show your child that it is okay to discuss race and White privilege.
    • If you live in a predominantly White area, conversations about race might not come up naturally. You need to start conversations by highlighting this fact.
      • For example, “Most of your [classmates, neighbors, friends] are White. Why do you think that is?” or “The character in this [tv show, book, movie] has a different skin color than us. What do you think about that?”


  • When children notice the differences in skin tone between themselves and their playmates explain that people come in all beautiful shades, making each individual unique and special. 
    Explain that people come in all beautiful shades, making each individual unique and special.
  • Normalize these differences and take the time to discuss other cultures.
  • Use language children will understand, but do not tiptoe around the idea of racism.
  • If discussing racial injustices, explain how it is not fair for people who are darker to be treated differently.


  • Ask your children how much they know about racial discrimination. You may be surprised at what they have learned from their peer groups.
  • Have open and free conversations about injustices. Discuss stereotypes, what they mean, and how they can hurt others.
  • There are many books, videos, television programs that discuss racial discrimination and injustices. Use these to initiate conversations.
  • Point out instances of racism when you see them. Doing so demonstrates that it is not taboo to discuss and call-out racism.

Middle School and Beyond:

  • If you notice your child having biased opinions, discuss these opinions and how they can be harmful for others. Dissect their meanings. 
    Encourage your child to be curious but respectful.
  • Have deeper conversations on how your child can be an ally and advocate for social rights. This is as easy as questioning why a classmate of color may be treated differently.
  • Encourage your child to be curious but respectful. Explain that they may say things that offend others, but those awkward moments are chances for us to learn and become better people, not to be defensive and fight.
  • Discuss how as a White individual, you have privileges that people of color may not, and how to use your voice to speak up for others.
    • Creating a safe space without judgment for your child to feel open to discuss racial problems with a parent is key to having open conversations. The most important thing a parent can do is to stay consistent with their practices of informing their children about racial discrimination.

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