Raising Anti-racist White Children 

June 24, 2020

I have been continuing in my anti-racist work by taking a three-part webinar series called “Raising Anti-Racist White Children” put on by the Center for the Study of White American Culture. Here are some take-aways from the first webinar. —Jennifer Palmason Kaiton, Faith Formation Coordinator

It should not come as a surprise that the majority of white parents do not talk to their children about race, while many parents of color talk to their kids about race at an early age. I believe this happens because many adults don’t have the tools themselves to talk about it. We talk to our kids about gender, about physical disabilities, eye color, hair color, and therefore why not skin color? Whether we talk to them or not, children are collecting information from the world around them every day. According to Erin N. Winkler Ph.D. at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; “They are picking up on the ways in which whiteness is normalized and privileged in U.S. society. That means consciously or unconsciously, middle-class white culture is presented as a norm or a standard in the U.S. in terms of appearance, beauty, language, cultural practices, food and so on. This message is so prevalent, it’s like a smog in the air and we are all breathing it. The “smog” comes in forms of children’s books, movies, TV, and songs which all contain that subtle message that whiteness is preferred. Studies show built in bias happens as early as two and a half.” So it is never too early to talk about race, and put in front of them books, songs, movies, & TV that put people of color at the center. 

The fundamental principles:

  1. Talking is essential — the myth is that children are not ready to talk about race when in fact they are and they are drawing their own conclusions whether we talk to them or not. Our silence will not help them. As white people, racisms IS our fight and our struggle. We must name our whiteness and not lie to children. When they ask questions, we must have clear anti-racist answers for them. By not talking to kids about race, we are compromising their humanity and setting them up to be vulnerable to the thick white supremacy and white culture that harms our society.
  2. Modeling anti-racism as a basic method of teaching anti-racism — Non-verbal communication about racism is also how we communicate to our children, so be aware of what we are saying with our bodies/physicality. Those messages are strong despite what we may think or no matter how much we talk to our kids about race and racism.
  3. Reject colorblindness & promote color-consciousness — many white people were taught colorblindness (we are all equal), and it’s harmful to our society. We must point out that not all are equal under the current laws, and that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin.
  4. Recognize and counter internalized racial superiority — We cannot be perfect, but we can examine how we learned what we learned about white culture and supremacy and work to undo it.
  5. Developing a support network is essential — We can’t do this work alone. We must build friendships and communities where the work of anti-racist education lives.
  6. Activism is a great teacher — Jump in and get to work, we will learn so much along the way.


Topics: Church Life

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