Talking About Race with Children

Dear Gateway Families,

At last week’s First Friday assembly, I spoke with our community about an incident of racial exclusion, in which one child told another child that they were not allowed at Gateway because of the color of their skin. I pointed out that we don’t exclude people based on aspects of their identity such as race, gender, body, or speech. I asked our students and the collected adults to reflect on times they have been hurt by the words or actions of another, or witnessed one person teasing another, and the pain that spreads to those not directly involved. I challenged our community to become upstanders, which means saying something if we hear something inappropriate, and asking for help from adults if we need it (and that includes adults asking for help!). And I proposed that the Golden Rule — treat others the way we want to be treated — is actually selfish, and that our community can aspire to the Rainbow Rule: treat others the way they want to be treated.

Many adults have a hard time talking about race with children. Sometimes we think it’s best to ignore skin color, but the “colorblind” approach erases and avoids important differences in human experience. And promoting a “not racist” mindset is not enough to help children understand (and eventually confront) the systemic racism rooted in American society; we must teach them how to be “anti-racist”. Here are a few resources to support your family as you navigate these critical discussions at home.

Rebecca Ruiz: Becoming A Parent Forced Me to Confront White Supremacy
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovish: How to Talk to Kids About Race: Resources and Readings
Katrina Schwartz: Teaching Six Year Olds About Privilege and Power
Bree Ervin: 6 Things White Parents Can Do To Raise Racially Conscious Children

For a powerful adults-only reading, I highly recommend “How To Be An Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi.

Becoming a community that can hold courageous and challenging conversations about racism is not easy, but it is an ethical imperative if we are to better prepare our children for their futures. And as our eyes are opened to new perspectives and paradigms around racial identity and experience, and we learn facts such as the racial baggage of Dr Seuss or the slavery practices of Thomas Jefferson, we become better equipped to teach our children about the complexity of race in modern society — and prepare them for our school’s goal “to discover their individual and collective potential to make positive change in the world.”


Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School