Talking About Racism with Kids is important, and admittedly, I should have taken more opportunity sooner. It’s easy to feel like what they are learning at school and experiencing in your home is enough. Not recognizing the depth of continued, systemic racism in our country is my blindspot.
We have a variety of people of color invited into our home and among friend groups. Sometimes I think that is enough. It is a great start. It’s not enough.
Talking About Racism with Kids
Our nation seems to have reached a turning point. I hope so. The brokenness hits you in the face, and you want to do more, teach more, listen more and understand more. I want healing for our people.
My mind has been studying, listening, and swirling this week. There has been a lot of reflection. Muddied waters still exist as I sort through stories and data while keeping my brain engaged, active and evolving.
Part of the muddiness exists in that while trying to listen to the black voice of both friends and strangers, there are different perspective and varying proposed solutions. As obvious and expected, people of color have their own experiences and thoughts. Some of those are conflicting.
To further muddy the waters, there are extreme and polarizing behaviors and language. The news is ugly – on both sides. It’s hard to get hard facts rather than opinions. You see things that break your heart on all sides.
When looking through statistics, it can also feel muddled depending upon the study and manipulation of data. I’ve heard it said 99% of statistics only tell 49% of the truth.
As I sit down to write, my thoughts feel dwarfed by brains that know more and have experienced more. Despite that fact, I do want to add a voice. My voice, however, is going to be referencing other voices that have challenged and encouraged me during this time.
As a mom, my thoughts also gravitate to thoughts of how I can better educate and live with my kids so that we can stand as a family against injustice and for the value of human life because talking about racism with kids is important.
Talking About Racism with Kids from a Biblical Perspective
If you are new here, I’ll tell you that I approach this topic and all topics from a Biblical perspective. While my blog provides a lot of resources and posts that have nothing to do with my faith, my Christian belief drives much of my perspective.
What does God say? How do we use the Bible to teach our kids truth about race? Here are some of the stands God takes on the issue:
Heaven is Made Up of Every Race
The first scripture that comes to mind is this one out of Revelation:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” – Revelation 7:9
What a beautiful picture of the amazing kaleidoscope of our future kingdom. Every race will be represented. Jesus came for all people. His forgiveness is available for everyone.
I rejoice in this.
Sin is at the Heart of Racism
“The righteousness of God (manifested to us) through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” – Romans 3:22-24
We are ALL sinners, and sin is at the heart of racism. What that looks like for you, I don’t know. We all need to look deep, self-reflect, ask forgiveness and repent.
What sins are at the heart of racism? Pride and selfishness are the first to come to mind, and if you think about it, those are the root of so many of our issues in relationships.
Whether we look at the government or in our interpersonal relationship with our co-workers, neighbors, spouses and other family members, pride and selfishness are at the root. These two sins we need to tackle hard-core so that we can eradicate racism at its core.
God Loves Justice and Mercy
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
Our hearts need to reflect God’s heart. He loves justice, so we stand up for that.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that God is the ultimate judge who will bring ultimate justice some day.
I believe, however, in the responsibility to peacefully seek justice through protest, words, changing laws, using economic support or refusal to use the services or products of people who don’t believe in our desire for justice for black lives and other people of color.
Love kindness. Need a start in teaching your kids? Try my character building series and my lessons on kindness. Be kind to one another, people.
Walk humbly. Pride is, as already mentioned, a huge thing. It takes humility to put other people’s needs above our own. Humility brings us to a place where we can recognize our own sin, contributions, ignorance or complacency.
We Need to Listen More than We Talk
We can form all kinds of opinions, and so many of those opinions are formed as we listen to the same voices over and over again. Listening to CNN is going to fit one narrative. Consuming FoxNews non-stop will contribute to a different narrative.
Let’s start listening to God’s narrative first rather than man’s. That said, we do also need to listen to other men and women.
I heard a great quote from pastor Bryan Loritts in this sermon (please listen to it – so good), “If people are coming to church out of relationships, than sanctuaries should reflect dinner tables. So if you want a diverse sanctuary, it starts with your dinner table. How diverse is your dinner table?” He is not only talking about race…but political views…economic status…and beyond.
We gather people of different color that have varying experiences and viewpoints. At the dinner there is discussion, but I’d encourage that discussion to be heavily weighted on listening and asking meaningful questions.
I enjoyed this first installment of uncomfortable conversations with a black man:
Your discussions don’t always need to be about race either. That gets heavy. Talk about family. Make jokes. Laugh. Cry. Build relationships in an authentic ways.
Try to not let your listening be so you can find the rebuttal. Listen to understand, and listen to love. Read and consider things from all sides of the argument.
Weigh carefully. After deep consideration, heartfelt self-exploration and open ears, begin to formulate an opinion. It takes getting around the rhetoric to hear and discover real solutions. Then, as the Bible also says, “speak the truth in love.”
Gently ask people of color their stories. The stories of racism among people you know bring the humanity out of the news stories and the conflicting data on the issues.
Know that these stories can be so hard and some won’t want to retell painful events over and over again, so we need to be sensitive, understanding and a safe place. We need to be listening and not providing our own commentary, especially if it dismisses their experiences and feelings that came from their experiences.
People of color, your stories matter, and they are important. I imagine you are exhausted, but we need your help to understand. There is understanding if you don’t want to share. I also appreciate your courage and vulnerability when you do.
God Cares about the Marginalized
If you read the Bible, it is very clear that God cares about the marginalized. He cares about the poor, the down-trodden, the hurting, the oppressed, the lonely, the sick and the lost.
Our hearts should break for the things that break God’s heart.
I think of God talking of the final judgement:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:33-40
Hear me loudly. People of color are not the least of these. They are equal in worth and value. God’s heart – my heart – is to recognize they are the ones that have faced many injustices over the years. They are the ones hurting, sad and angry. We stand up for those that the world has been unkind to. They have great worth, so we stand.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commands it was wrapped up in this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40
Love. Sum it all up in that. Love. Just do it. It’s our greatest command.
Listen to Others More Qualified Than Me On the Topic of Race and Racism from a Biblical Perspective
I can be a voice for what the Bible teaches, but I don’t have the preaching skills nor the personal experience as a white woman. There are pastors I trust on the topic, and I want to recommend these voices.
One thing I love about these Christian black men is that they come from a solid Biblical perspective. Also, black and white friends that I respect and affirm their messages. Third, they speak about bringing people together. It’s not an us vs. them mentality. It’s about coming together to bring a diverse community that loves one another well.
Watching these videos will take time, but take the time. They’re good!
I will add more as I continue to listen because I will continue to listen.
How Do We Teach Our Kids to Understand and Combat Racism?
Talking about racism with kids is important. We lead by actions and words.
Invite People In
Different races, different economic status’, different political views – invite them to your dinner table. Invite them into your lives. Listen. Ask meaningful questions. Discuss hard and important topics in love.
David Loritts says, “Proximity breeds empathy. Distance breeds suspicions.” (this sermon) It’s not about gathering among people who are constantly agreeing with us, but it is also about being around people that are different.
If the demographics of your neighborhood allow it, encourage friendship for your kids of color. Be intentional about that.
Listen to people of color. Hopefully, you can seek out relationships within your community. There are other ways to listen also. The sermons above are a great start. Kids can listen to those sermons and discuss them.
Watch movies together. Movies can spark great discussion. Our family watched Hidden Figures together. A friend just recommended Ruby Bridges on Disney+.
While we already watch shows together that display people of color, being intentional about finding movies that directly address racism are important too.
Remember the Titans is one I remember watching when I was younger, and I’d like to revisit it with my kids.
Others I haven’t watched with my kids yet but want to check out: A Ballerina’s Tale, Harriet, and Just Mercy (I read it recommended for 13 and up, but I’m going to preview it in hopes my littler kids can watch it. I have heard good things, and it’s available free right now).
Here’s a recommended movie list from PopSugar.
Above I mentioned passages that touch on the surface of what God has to say about race. I also think about the story of the woman at the well or the Good Samaritan.
It takes some background to understand that Samaritans were treated in racist ways. Jesus saw their humanity. He loved them where they were at. He created bridges.
The mere fact that God created race and diversity should be testimony of each person’s value.
Find Educational Resources
There are so many resources out there. Some are good. Some not so good. Some are going to be good or bad based on who you talk to. Personally, I appreciated and learned from this video as I wanted to understand more about systemic racism.
You can read things together, even if they aren’t the whole picture, and discuss them and grow together, especially with older kids.
I hesitate to share resources because I really like to preview things before I recommend.
For me personally, I found it informative to see the data here about the wealth gap. However, it’s not the whole picture. There’s so much to learn, so we just keep plugging along and bring our families in on the journey.
A friend put together this video with some sources. I haven’t read or listened to them all, so it’s important to do your own reading and decide what is appropriate for children.
A resource I can recommend is “The Third Option,” by Miles McPherson. I’ve been to his church, the Rock, in San Diego a few times, and I really enjoyed his preaching.
As a church, we did his video series. Part 1 I shared above.
I have friends who have put together kids’ book lists on race, racism and diversity. Here is one of them.
Conversations with kids are going to look different based on their age level, but don’t stop teaching.
Work on Character Building
Character building is a soap box of mine. I have developed a character building series with lessons for every single day of the year to work on 52 different character traits. Find that here.
I’m continuing to update, add to and refine my series. I will definitely be considering how to integrate more talk of diversity and race in the series.
While I’m in the process, you can be creative as you do these lessons.
Leadership – What does this mean in the light of race issues? How do we become a real leader as we address these issues?
Kindness – Who are we kind to? The answer is simple – everyone. However, we can also talk about how kindness has been lost on people of color in throughout the present and the past.
Compassion – What does compassion look like as we talk with people of color?
Responsibility – How can I take personal responsibility for my thoughts, feelings or even the actions of others?
This list goes on and on, but we can use this character building series as a catalyst for conversations about racism.
Be Good to One Another
There is so much divisiveness right now. The answers aren’t going to come easy, but they are important, so persevere as you tackle racism on the micro-level – within your family, within your interpersonal relationships and within yourself.
Tackle it in the macro-level – within your churches, with in your cities and in your political pursuits.
Be good to one another as you grow in this topic. We ALL need to experience growth. It will be uncomfortable. Doubts will come. Questions will arise. Souls will be searched.
Stand among your brothers and sisters in love, selflessness and humility. Love God and love others.