Racism affects children the same way hunger and homelessness do, according to a Maryland-based pediatrician, author and activist.
“How can we create a more conducive environment for kids so that all kids can thrive and grow?” asked Dr. Jacqueline Douge during a virtual panel discussion earlier this month.
For younger kids, that could look like a diverse set of books that feature kids of all colors, while celebrating differences and similarities, Douge said; that’s an important step to begin helping them learn.
The discussion, hosted by national nonprofit Common Sense, which has a regional office in D.C., explored how families could better help children process the impacts of racism, especially now during a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black and Latinx communities and the widespread protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Douge stressed that parents should use what their children may see in the media to have conversations about other viewpoints.
“It’s a conversation that you have over time. You may not always like it, but it’s an opportunity to learn something and spark conversations,” she said.
Allison Briscoe-Smith, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Wright Institute, said parents must ask kids what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it, while encouraging them to share their feelings in order to initiate these conversations.
“It’s deleterious to our health to watch viral Black death again and again and again, and yet it’s really compelling and our youth are at risk because they’re on their screens,” Briscoe-Smith said.
These conversations are necessary for Black parents and a crucial opportunity to educate for white parents, she added.
“I also think we need to train all of our kids to be savvy consumers, to understand what is click bait, why are people showing this, who gets paid when people see this, so that they can have some agency in what they’re seeing,” Briscoe-Smith said.
This allows parents to work with their children to mediate the impacts of racism and open a space for dialogue, she added.
For more resources on how families can have these discussions, visit Common Sense Media’s race and racism page.
Watch the full discussion below.