How Do We Talk To Our Young Children About Race & Racism?

Lulu Luckock talks to teacher and campaigner Sarah Turner about introducing the subject of race and racism with young children.

It’s time for us to pull together as a society to build a more inclusive and fairer world.

In order to do this, however, we need to recognise and tackle systemic racism which is built into the foundation of our modern society.

This is according to Sarah Turner, a nursery school teacher, campaigner and counsellor, who believes the mission to break down divisions and create equal opportunities for all regardless of colour, class or gender starts at home.

It’s up to parents, she says, to start a conversation about race and racism with their young children and to keep it going throughout childhood.

Mumfidential’s Lulu Luckock met up with Sarah to ask how we should go about doing this.

How do we begin talking to our young children about race?

I don’t believe I am an expert (!) but the way I approach the subject of race and racism is to talk about equality.

With small children you don’t want to leap in by talking about race; start by discussing something that means something to all of us such as eye colour, hair colour or perhaps height or gender.

Something that is easily relatable for the children to recognise is the most important thing.

I then open the door to a conversation about unfairness in general, using a story – either in a book or something I make up.

Here’s an example:

“Imagine you were picked on at school because you had blonde hair; children, teachers and other peoples’ parents made things difficult for you because of the colour of your hair. And just imagine how it would feel if there was no one there to stand up for you?

I think I’d feel small as if I wasn’t good enough; I’d feel as if I didn’t belong and that I would never fit in. I think I would start to dislike myself for being who I am.”

Older children can watch this lesson play out in the Brown eyes and Blue Eyes Racism experiment Children session with Jane Eliot.

What resources would you suggest we have at home to keep the conversation going?

Make sure you have lots of diverse multi-racial, books to read at home – one I can suggest for little ones is The Rainbow Club. 

It’s also a good idea to have dolls and toys from different backgrounds at home, ones that represent people of different races who have roles of responsibility in our society such as firefighters, doctors, policemen, dentists and teachers to name but a few.

Be careful with the words you use –  black is very often associated with ‘bad’ and white with ‘good’. Examples of this include black sheep, blackmail, blacklisted.


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