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Racism Discussion Starters

An Awkward Explanation

There are so many ways to open the discussions of racism. It is a part of our world, a part of our experiences, and we must open the conversation.

I am white (or peachy chocolate chip cookie- see later in the post with Colors of Us), and my experience is limited. I believe my job is to listen, to learn, to keep my eyes open, to speak up- particularly in spaces where my voice will be more likely to be heard- spaces that lack understanding, spaces that lack curiosity, or spaces that are hostile.

I believe many people avoid bringing up racism because they sincerely do not know what to say, they sincerely do not understand, because they assume others will not want to know, or because they are scared of offending people by making mistakes.

Yes, we will make mistakes. We will upset people with our mistakes. But fear of making mistakes should not prevent us from opening important conversations. The people being most hurt by racism are more hurt by avoiding the conversation. Hopefully, we are making mistakes constantly in education. It’s how we all learn. We need to live it by walking into our own fears of mistakes.

Tools for Starting a Discussion of Racism

Copyright A KIds Book About, Inc. Linked to Reading by Author

Reading this book is an opening in and of itself. It gives language and definition and accessible starting spots for all to engage. If you don’t know what to do- or are nervous to do it, start here. Just read the book to anyone.

The company A Kids Book About used to have the byline “Because Kids Are Ready”. Their first books were designed for kids 5 years and older. From my discussions, many people think kids are not thinking about racism or discrimination early on- that we will bring kids problems they have never considered.

Kids are so smart. They are observant. They take in words and actions and motions and thoughts. They take it all in- and they are wondering. They see it, and they are ready to discuss it all.

This book offers such a clear definition of racism- certainly helpful and valuable for all humans. It offers everyone an avenue to understand, and empowers all with words to respond and to act.

The series of books from A Kids Book About offers clarity for a whole variety of difficult topics with approaches that support, inform, and empower. It is a collection of books and podcasts. I have read from my collection of their books to humans from kindergarten to adults. Really good.

More Discussion Starters

There are so many more books I love for discussing racism and humanity. A picture book is not just for little kids. It’s like a poem that can start discussions for humans of all ages.

by Lupita Nyong’o, Linked to Reading by the Author

Sulwe is an absolutely beautiful book in every way- and again, accessible for all ages.

By Marybeth Lorbiecki, Linked to Lesson Ideas

Sister Anne’s Hands is a brief and powerful book- a wonderful discussion starter. The book’s lesson ideas from the Teach Peace Now website support a wide variety of discussions.

By Karen Katz, Linked to Discussion Ideas

The Colors of Us began one of my favorite introductory lessons for my 3rd grade homeroom- every year. The lesson was to ultimately to create a “Who Am I?” book- a book with one page per student in the class. The front of each page of our book was a handwritten description of the person, from physical (hair color, eye color, skin color, favorite pajamas or hat) to hobbies to dreams- 3 paragraphs per child. The back of each page was a photo I had taken of them, on a pre-determined day so they could bring or wear anything they thought helped define them.

The Colors of Us supported the hair, eye, and skin descriptions of our first paragraphs. We learned to use thesauruses to find more succinct words for ourselves. The Colors of Us has so many beautiful descriptions of skin color- far more interesting and descriptive and fitting than “white” and “black”. The kids began to describe their skin colors with words like rich coffee, peachy with chocolate chip polka-dots, and creamy butterscotch. (We always sat in a circle and noticed that none of our skin colors could be aptly described as white or black.)

The “Who Am I?” book we created was always a favorite for silent reading time- and it opened discussions from the start. (Each page was put into a page protector in a 3-ring notebook- not high tech!)

Another incredible resource for any age, any time:

Bookmarks by Netflix

A whole load of beautiful books read by their authors and/or other famous people

This is only a start of the wealth of books to support powerful discussions of racism. The kids are ready. Open the conversation.

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