Seattle Girls School Talking to Kids About Race

Seattle Girls' School

Talking to Kids About Race and Racism

SGS Town Hall Event

Wednesday, June 17

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Questions from Audience Not Addressed in the Session:

Q: CHOP/CHAZ is front and center now. I’d love your thoughts on how to discuss this with kids. Thanks!

A: (Lee) As with many issues, it’s complicated.  This article gives a little background on how that space came to be, some of the affirmations and some of the concerns that arise about the area (  When you talk to your kids, explain the FACTS.  Then tell them what you think.  Again, some think this is a wonderful example of how communities can thrive without police presence and how peaceful organizing and protests can and does happen.  Some think that this is not a fair example of what’s possible since Capitol Hill is a predominantly wealthy and white area, and we’re not seeing the same kind of autonomy given to predominantly Black or poor communities.  Some think it’s problematic, because the focusing on CHOP takes attention away from grassroots organizing happening in other areas and away from the voices of Black leaders who have been resisting oppression and championing change all along the way.  The what you think is based on your beliefs and values. 


Q: Can you give more examples of externalized validations with teenagers.

A: (Jones) The term I meant to use was associated with positive racial identity where Black youth are able to “externalize devaluation” by others.  


What I am referring to is the situation when a Black youth has negative racialized experiences that devalue their identity (e.g., stereotype threat, microaggressions, judged based on implicit bias). In these situations, they need to have coping skills in place so that they do not internalize the negativity.  Youth who have a healthy positive racial identity are able to externalize the negativity rather than internalize it and allow their self esteem to be impacted.  Here is an example of a classroom exchange to show the different processes:


A black girl enters a classroom late and the teacher says, “well hurry up and sit down, you need all the time we have to learn this material”. The statement includes a microaggression (emphasis on “YOU need ALL”) that is based on a stereotype (lower intellectual capability). Here are two potential responses that she may have, one internalizing and one externalizing. 


Internalizing response:  if she were to internalize that teacher’s statement, she would experience stereotype threat, feel anxiety, and likely NOT learn the material due to fear of failure. She might say to herself, “I’m never going to learn this now.  I can’t ask questions because they will blame me for being late in front of everybody.  It’s no use anyway, I hate this subject so I won’t get it.” The statement was interpreted as based on her identity and assumed the stereotype to be true. 


However, the externalized response would allow her to interpret the microaggression and devaluation as the problem of the teacher (rather than about her identity). If she has the coping skill of externalizing situations when she is devalued, she would be able to say to herself, “ignore that. I have an A in this class and I learned half of this material by reading on my own. They are just mad at me because I am late.”  The externalized response is rooted in the fact that she has a strong racial identity that is not disrupted as easily by the bias of others or stereotype threat.  It is this response that would allow her to join the class and jump into learning rather than ruminating over her feelings associated with confirming the stereotype. 



Q: What if you are dealing with internalized colorism and want to work towards not instilling that in your children? Furthermore, what if you are struggling with your child not looking like you, and that are more likely to experience "light-skinned privilege" or "pretty privilege" but you don't necessarily want them to? I guess the question is how do you not pass on internalized colorism when you are still struggling with it?

A: (Lee) This is such a complex issue with no easy answers.  There are separate journeys here – one toward self-love for you and one for your child toward resisting whiteness in a world that will treat them better for their proximity to it.

For YOU:
A story of one woman's journey and a short film she made after returning from Africa
A filmmaker's journey and the short film "Charcoal."
NGO site.  Though started in India, rampant colorism and combating it is a global effort.
Dark skinned women who pushed back on the beauty industry and made their own channel for beauty tips for the dark skinned woman.

Latinx mom tells her story and her journey toward evolution of thought and feelings.

Remember that you can’t control how others treat your child.  Privilege is not something you earn or sign up for.  You CAN train him with messages and model for him how to reject colorism.  If someone say, “Ooh, you are so pretty with your caramel skin” you can train them to say “I think I’m pretty because I have dimples and a big smile and bright shining eyes!” or you can say, “My child is smart, funny, and kind.   I’d love it if you talk about that instead of his skin color.”



Q: What does a healthy racial identity look like for white kids, in the face of the terrible things white people have done (and continue to do) to communities of color?

Q: My children expressed that they feel guilty for being white. How do I address this?

A: (Carlson) The most widely accepted writings of White Identity development is the Helms

If your child says they feel guilty, my response would be:

“That is a good thing… and working through those feelings is part of the process.”  Let children go through those feelings while they are young and help them by validating them.  Let them know that it is good to have hard feelings and then practice move past them.  Let them also know it is a stage for many people, and they can move on.  That has been my personal response.

General Conversation Resources

Infographic from The Children’s Community School in Philidelphia and their resources
Pretty Good's Expansion of resources


Raising Race Conscious Children, a Resource for Talking About Race with Young Children


Beyond the Golden Rule and Speak Up.  The first is a parenting guide (30 pages or so), and the second is a strategy guide for how to speak up in different situations when you encounter bias, prejudice, or discrimination. (Teaching Tolerance


ADL's Table Talk - Tips and tools for engaging in dialogue about current events like representation of diversity in dolls, islamaphobia, gun violence, protests etc.


Howard Stevenson on Talking to Children after Racial Incidents


Colorlines Magazine's Dos and Don'ts of Talking to Kids of Color About White Supremacy (written post Charlottesville, still relevant today)


Talking to Kids About Protests 
(written post Charlottesville, still relevant today)


Helping Children Cope with Frightening News


For Parents of Color Talking to Children of Color
Trying to Parent My Black Teenagers Through Pandemic and Protest (Article)  


For White Parents Talking to Children of Color
‘A man was unjustly killed here.’ Interracial families face challenge explaining George Floyd’s death to their children (article)
Raising a Child of Color in America—While White (Article written for families with transracially adopted children, but many points are salient) 


For White Parents Talking to White Kids
Raising White Kids with Jennifer Harvey (Podcast and NPR Interview)


For Educators Talking to Kids
NPR Q/A with Jesse Hagopian, co-author of Teaching for Black Lives


General Resources:

Amazing curated resource document created by organization Albert - Affirming Black Lives in School - Teachers, Administrators, Students and Families

Another curated resource by Stamborski, Zimmermann, and Gregory - Scaffolded Resources to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work.

Books for Littles Resource for Parents to use books to teach young children (0-8) about various topics like racism, xenophobia, ageism, and more.

21 Anti-Racism Videos to Share with Kids

Why Did It Happen?: Helping Young Children Cope in a Violent World by Janice Cohn (book for adults)

Jenny is Scared!: When Something Sad Happens in the World by Carol Shuman (for youth)

The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton & Susan Schaefer Bernardo (for youth)

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes (for youth)