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“When we tell our kids that ‘race does not matter,’ we are ignoring 400-plus years of race mattering in huge ways in the U.S. Race should not matter, but it does.”

It’s time to have a fresh conversation with our kids about race.

I’m suggesting a good old-fashioned lecture about the past and present state of race and how it’s them, future generations, who must do better.

We’re seeing signs we’ve put it off far too long already.  

In the run-up to Desert Vista High School’s 2019 graduation, someone claiming to be organizing a “senior prank” among seniors suggested turning the school’s front gates into a mock southern border, complete with tortillas and police checkpoint.

To be clear: it was one post and the school shut the entire thing down immediately; but the parallels between this incident and an infamous 2016 fiasco where a group of seniors spelled out a racial slur with their t-shirts, are just too close to ignore. Local media picked up the story, opening still very fresh wounds for the DV community.  

I asked people affiliated with the school what they thought about the proposed prank. Most of the responses were predictably emotional. Just about everyone agreed the prank border idea was awful are glad it didn’t happen.

They also didn’t want to see the school — or any of the students’ — reputations tarnished. One even warned something like this could ruin graduation.

Our kids are good. And they all — every single one — do jerky things without considering the full consequences. Which is why I’m suggesting it’s more important than ever to have these discussions at home, help kids process what they’re experiencing and how that fits with your family’s values.

White families have to lead on this.

Dr. Rebecca White, ASU professor and expert on family and human development, explains ignoring the reality of what our kids see around them every day does none of our kids any favors.

“Parents — including white parents —need to talk to their kids about racism, and the parts of U.S. history that have established and maintained racial inequality,” she says. “When we tell our kids that ‘race does not matter,’ we are ignoring 400-plus years of race mattering in huge ways in the U.S. Race should not matter, but it does.”

She adds there are plenty of books and resources available to help parents navigate discussions about race at home.

This is about preparing our kids for the world.

Our kids have always needed us to lay things out for them in ridiculously clear terms: wet the soap before washing; write so people can read it; don’t stick things in your ear. But if nothing else, a frank talk about racism over the summer break might just keep your kid off the evening news.

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Here are some resources to help parents and educators navigate discussions about race.
For parents of teens: Below the Surface: Talking with Teens about Race, Ethnicity, and Identity.
For parents of younger children:
For educators:

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