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Parents blog: Talking to kids about race

We’re an interracial family but since our kids are so little, we have never had an in-depth conversation about race.

But the topic has come up. While drawing and coloring one day, my son, who just turned 6, said to me, “I’m white.”

My response was automatic: “No, you’re not.”

I started explaining to him that even though his dad is white, I’m not white, so therefore he isn’t white, either. I told him it would probably be more accurate to describe ourselves as “brown.”

It made him a little confused but we both dropped the subject. I just didn’t know where to go from there.

Earlier this month, excerpts from the book “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children,” were published in Newsweek. Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman wrote about a researcher from the University of Texas and her studies of racial attitudes among children.

Families who volunteered for the study were asked to discuss racial equality with their children every night for five nights. Several families immediately dropped out.

“It was no surprise that in a liberal city like Austin, every parent was a welcoming multiculturalist, embracing diversity,” wrote Bronson and Merryman.

“But according to (the researcher)’s entry surveys, hardly any of these white parents had ever talked to their children directly about race. … They wanted their children to grow up colorblind.”

However, the researcher found that the children already had discriminatory attitudes about race.

“In this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions – many of which would be abhorrent to their parents,” Bronson and Merryman wrote.

Do you talk to your children about race? How old should the child be before engaging him or her in this conversation? How do you start talking to your child about this often complicated and controversial subject?

– Posted by Virginia de Leon

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