At an early age, your child may notice that some people use skin color or nationality as an excuse for treating others differently. How can you help your child to avoid being influenced by the racial prejudice of others? What can you do if he or she becomes the victim of racial bias?
In this article
How to talk to kids about race
What you can explain. There is wonderful variety in the physical features and cultural customs of humans throughout the world. This diversity has led some people to treat other people badly based on how they look or act.
However, the Bible teaches that all humans share a common ancestry. In other words, we are all related to one another.
“[God] made out of one man every nation of men.”—Acts 17:26.
“We found that when our children associated with people of different racial backgrounds, they could see for themselves how each person is worthy of our love and respect.”—Karen.
How to explain racism to kids
Sooner or later, your child will hear news reports about hate crimes or other incidents of racial bias. How can you explain what is happening? Much depends on the age of your child.
Preschoolers. “Little kids are very attuned to what’s fair and not fair,” says Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, quoted in Parents magazine. “That’s a strong basis for discussing injustice.”
“God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
Preteens. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are curious, and sometimes they ask difficult questions. Answer these as well as you can. Talk to your children about what they see at school and in the media, and use these discussions as an opportunity to explain that racial prejudice is wrong.
“Have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility.”—1 Peter 3:8.
Teenagers. Young people are at a time in life when they learn to grasp issues that are more complex. The teen years thus afford an excellent opportunity for you and your adolescent to discuss news reports of racial bias.
“Mature people . . . have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
“We talk to our kids about racism because it’s something that they will encounter at some point, no matter where they live. If they don’t hear about this subject at home, they could adopt the mindset of others. A lot of misinformation can be presented to our children as fact.”—Tanya.
How to set the example
Children learn by example, so it is important for you as a parent to consider your speech and actions. For instance:
Do you joke about people of other races or belittle them? “Your children are watching and listening to you and naturally model their behavior after yours,” says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Do you enjoy being with people from other areas of the world? Pediatrician Alanna Nzoma says: “If you want your kids to . . . create [good] relationships with people from different backgrounds, they should see you doing this.”
“Honor men of all sorts.”—1 Peter 2:17.
“Over the years, our family hosted guests from all parts of the world. We learned about their food and music and even wore their traditional clothing. We talked to our children about people, not about race. And we avoided bragging about our own culture.”—Katarina.
If your child is a victim of prejudice
Despite much talk about equality, racism is rampant. This means that your child might be treated unkindly, especially if he or she is considered to be part of a minority group. If that happens . . .
Get the facts. Was the offense intentional, or was it just a lapse in good judgment? (James 3:2) Does the offender need to be called to account, or can the incident be overlooked?
Clearly, balance is needed. The Bible offers wise advice: “Do not be quick to take offense.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Racism should not be minimized, but not every perceived insult constitutes a hate crime or racial hatred.
Of course, each situation is different, so find out what actually happened before you decide whether to take any action.
“When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.”—Proverbs 18:13.
After getting the facts, ask yourself:
‘Will my child benefit by assuming the worst about people and feeling victimized by every perceived insult?’
‘Could my child benefit by following the Biblical advice: “Do not take to heart every word that people say”?’—Ecclesiastes 7:21.
“Let your reasonableness become known.”—Philippians 4:5.
What if the offense seems intentional? Help your child realize that things can get better or worse depending on how he or she responds. Sometimes a person who taunts, bullies, or insults another person is looking for a reaction. In such cases, the best response may be no response.
“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out.”—Proverbs 26:20.
On the other hand, if it is safe for your child to do so, he or she might be able to talk to the offender. Perhaps your child could say (in a nonconfrontational way), “I really didn’t think that what you said (or did) was very kind.”
What if you want to report the incident? If your child’s welfare is threatened or for some other reason you feel that the situation should not be overlooked, feel free to talk to school officials or even to the police if needed.