Ground Your Conversations About Race in Children’s Five Senses

The following is directly informed by Jill MacFarlane’s advice about grounding grief work with young children in their five sense.

All children experience the consequences of white supremacy every single day. Invisibilizing power and violence is a powerful way for it to appear natural, and to be reproduced. This can be disrupted by simply naming it. Helping children use language to talk through experiences of race and racism is a form of respect for the complex and complicated lives young children lead. 

This work is sometimes reactive, like answering a question or responding to an action or comment a child makes, but this work must also be proactive. Proactive work could look like identifying experiences young people are having, and then initiating conversation about it. Examples of a child experiencing racism, the consequences of racism, and white supremacy culture include:

-Overhearing something on the radio

-Hearing an adult in a family make a comment

-Living in segregated places, like a majority white town or neighborhood 

-Attending a school with mostly white teachers and mostly people of color cleaning staff 

-Reading books with mostly white characters

-Watching a TV show where a character of color is stereotyped

-Seeing the police pull over a driver of color

-Noticing fewer city resources in brown and Black neighborhoods that a child might live in, visit, or pass through

Living in majority white spaces and having few or no friends, neighbors, doctors, teachers and relatives of color, is a potent bodily experience of white supremacy culture and racism. This offers constant lived experience to ground conversation in. 

Let us not leave preschoolers alone to sort through some of the most painful and nuanced parts of their environment. 

drawing by Michelle Sayles

drawing by Michelle Sayles