How to talk to your child about race workshop - 29th September 2022
Last week we hosted a very thought-provoking evening talk by Sabrina Edwards (Headteacher and leader on Educating for Equality). Sabrina is exceptionally experienced in this field and we are enormously grateful that Sabrina was able to join us for an evening to present a new workshop about talking to your children about race. This workshop was attended by several local schools and educationalists from Richmond and Kingston.
This article covers many of the key points that were raised during the evening.
“Race is not real; it is a social construct from more than 400 years ago” – was the opening of Sabrina Edwards talk at Barnes Primary School, the evening of 29 September 2002. Ms Edwards is an accomplished school leader and Head teacher in West London, driven by a moral purpose that only through truly embedding equality education in schools can we begin to develop an equitable society. Ms Edward’s talk covered both the origins of institutional racism in society and in the UK. She provided practical tools that parents can use to navigate and simplify a seemingly uncomfortable and complex issue, especially when talking to primary school children.
How can we actively practice Anti-Racism? Ms Edwards emphasises that talking about race is a journey, never a completed activity! To be effective at anti-racist parenting, there are several critical areas of active practice. Parents should challenge racist messages (in front of our children) perpetuated by society, media, books, film, etc., especially when shown in media for children and young people. Parents can also include their children in creating an active allyship lifestyle by embracing multicultural events and celebrating ‘difference’. And whilst it may feel uncomfortable at times, it is critical that parents continuously be accountable, vulnerable and avoid being defensive in these conversations.
When should we start to discuss race with our children? Many of us feel that we want to preserve our children’s innocence – letting kids simply be kids without the weight of such difficult conversations. We worry we may make it a bigger issue than it is or that we simply don’t know what to say. However, research has shown that by the age of 7 months, children are able to identify social cues on difference in features and identities. Normalising ‘different’ at an early age has a profound effect on children’s lifelong views. These don’t have to be complex discussions on the origins of race with a 3-year-old! We can accomplish this by exposing very young children to a diverse range of books, images, and age-appropriate videos.
How do I model anti-racist behaviour for my child? There are many ways we can both model and engage our young children in this critical conversation. Most importantly – keep it simple and factual – these conversations are hard enough without bringing our own fears and worries into the conversation! A helpful anagram to remember is: S.H.A.R.E.
S – Say something right away. If we hear racism, point it out and confront it. Be brave! It’s not easy, but it is the right thing to do and to model for our children.
H – Help them to understand what has happened and why it was hurtful or wrong.
A – Ask for help. We are not expected to have all the answers! The school can help you with resources.
R – Repair the damage. If something hurtful has occurred, we need to make sure that the person on the receiving end has the support they need. It’s as simple as saying I’m sorry I said that.
E – Embrace Critical Conversations. If our children ask a hard question then it’s time to talk about race and if you need to, refer to A – and ask for help.
Learn more about the Barnes Inclusion Alliance at Barnes Primary School at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/barnesinclusion