A project of Brooklyn Historical Society

White Parents Talking about Race

Posted on

April 1, 2014


"How White Parents Should Talk to their Kids about Race" (Slate.com 3/30/14)

Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science writer and white mother raising white kids in a mostly white town explores ideas about how (and why) white parents should talk to their young kids about race:

"Kids actively try to understand and construct rules about their environment. As they do, they engage in what is called transductive or essentialist reasoning, which means that they simultaneously categorize people and objects according to multiple dimensions—so they might believe, wrongly, that people who have the same skin color have similar abilities or intelligence. They also notice class-race patterns—for instance that white people tend to hold privileged jobs or positions (or play them on television). One study found that by age 7, black children rated jobs held by blacks as lower in status than jobs held by whites. In other words, as Winkler wrote in a 2009 paper, 'children pick up on the ways in which whiteness is normalized and privileged in U.S. society.'

Beverly Tatum, a race-relations scholar and the president of Spelman College in Atlanta, has referred to this pervasive cultural message as a 'smog in the air,' noting that 'we don't breathe it because we like it. We don't breathe it because we think it's good for us. We breathe it because it's the only air that's available.' Ultimately, kids may infer that the patterns they see in privilege and status are caused by inherent differences between groups."

Kids are not colorblind and talking to them explicitly about race can give them good protection from racist "smog in the air."

Read the full article here.