When should children learn about racism?

by Katherine Ramsey
July 2nd, 2021

Regardless of whether adults avoid the conversation of race with their children, children make observations and judgements based on skin color early in their development. Additionally, many BIPOC families don’t have a choice in having early conversations about race with their children, in order to keep them safe and aware in a world that does not treat them equally or fairly.

According to So You Want to Talk About…, “at birth, babies look equally at faces of all races. At 3 months, babies look more at faces that match the race of their caregivers.” Although children may not know the word for it, children adopt racial biases early in their lives. SYWTTA continues, stating, “children as young as two years use race to reason about people’s behaviors” and that “by 30 months old, most children use race to choose playmates.” These effects are felt especially among Black and Latinx communities as by age five, Black and Latinx children “show no preference toward their own groups compared to whites” Similarly, “white children at this age remain strongly biased in favor of whiteness.”

Although children are typically far more accepting of diversity in their young age, this does not exclude them from racial biases. Children show many of the same racial attitudes as adults by kindergarten, including associating certain groups with higher status than others.

Organizations such as Embrace Race, The Conscious Kid, and Learning for Justice provide lesson plans, book lists, and tips on how to have conversations with children about racism and diversity.

Some of these tips include:

  1. Approach your child from a place of curiosity - beginning the conversation by seeing what your child already knows will give you a better idea of where to begin and correct any misconceptions.
  2. Start with basic, foundational concepts - concepts such as the difference between fair and equal give children the foundational info to understand future concepts like segregation and Black Lives Matter.
  3. Using books and media to begin the conversation - allow your child to interpret what they see and give them room to ask questions. It is also important to balance stories about racism and hardship with stories of joy and resilience, this ensures that BIPOC communities are not reduced solely to being victims of racism.


So You Want To Talk About, Talking to Kids About Racism. https://www.instagram.com/p/CP5mOx2nVkA/

EmbraceRace. https://www.embracerace.org/

The Conscious Kid. https://www.theconsciouskid.org/

Learning for Justice. https://www.learningforjustice.org/

Photo. https://www.megapixl.com/world-kids-illustration-614144