Lead By Example: Educational Resources And Books About Race And Racism For Parents

Oluwatosin Michael
Dec 12, 2023 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Jun 12, 2020
Happy mixed-ethnic family with their cute young son
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Age: 0-99
Read time: 20.0 Min

In today's diverse world, it's vital for parents to ensure their children understand and appreciate racial inclusivity. This understanding begins with the caregivers. To truly teach children about race and prejudice, parents must first equip themselves with knowledge and awareness.

Educating yourself about racial injustice might seem like a daunting task. It requires self-reflection, unlearning ingrained beliefs, and taking responsibility. However, it's an essential step to ensure the next generation grows up in a more inclusive and understanding world.

Fortunately, there's a plethora of resources available to aid in this journey. Books, documentaries, films, and podcasts are among the invaluable tools parents can use. These resources not only enlighten adults but also offer guidance on articulating these complex issues to children.

The aim is simple: to lead by example. The quest for racial equality isn't a fleeting phase; it's a lifelong commitment. As parents lead the way, they're crafting a path for their children, filled with empathy, understanding, and respect for all.

Understanding The Basics

The concepts of race and racism have multifaceted histories, evolving definitions, and nuanced impacts on societies worldwide. Delving into this subject, you'll quickly grasp that race is a social construct, rooted in physical attributes but with a significant societal impact.

Racism, on the other hand, is the prejudiced belief or behavior that emerges from assuming one race is superior to others. For parents aiming to raise well-informed, empathetic children, understanding these two terms is foundational. Here are some facts that provide insight into these topics.

  • The modern concept of race as we understand it largely developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Before this, societies categorized people based on religion, status, class, or locality rather than physical appearance.
  • All humans share approximately 99.9% of their DNA. The genetic differences that determine skin color and other racial features represent only a tiny fraction of our genetic makeup.
  • Scientific consensus maintains that there's no biological basis for race. It is a social construct, meaning it was created and given meaning by people.
  • Certain genetic traits that are prevalent in specific racial or ethnic groups evolved due to environmental conditions. For instance, many people of Northern European descent can digest lactose because their ancestors relied heavily on unprocessed dairy. In contrast, lactose intolerance is more common in populations where dairy farming was less prevalent.
  • Racism is not only individual prejudice but also includes institutional patterns and practices that create different outcomes for different racial groups. This is often termed systemic or institutional racism.
  • The first international acknowledgment of the need to abolish the transatlantic slave trade was the signing of the 1815 Declaration Relative to the Universal Abolition of the Slave Trade by the major European powers of the time.
  • In the U.S., there were towns where, by unwritten rule or legal ordinance, non-Whites had to leave the city limits by sundown to avoid violence or arrest. These were called 'sundown towns', and many existed outside the South.
  • Nations like Papua New Guinea and India have significant ethnic diversity. Papua New Guinea, with a population of just over 7 million, has over 800 different languages spoken!
  • Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a psychiatrist, coined the term 'microaggressions' in the '70s to describe subtle verbal and non-verbal insults directed at Black Americans. The term has since expanded to include similar aggressions toward other racial and marginalized groups.
  • Studies show that people can hold biases against certain racial or ethnic groups without consciously realizing it. These biases can influence decisions and behaviors in subtle ways.
Barbie dolls of different races on a shelf

Picture Books That Celebrate Diversity

One of the most effective tools to introduce young minds to diverse cultures, backgrounds, and experiences is through picture books. These books, rich in visuals and stories, allow children to journey across different continents, meet people from varied backgrounds, and appreciate the beauty of diversity.

A beneficial practice is to discuss these stories after reading. Encourage children to share their insights, ask questions, and express their feelings about what they've read.

  • Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race By Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, And Isabel Roxas: This book is designed as an introduction to discussions about race for young children. It is part of a series aimed at starting essential conversations with little ones. Its straightforward, age-appropriate text paired with vibrant illustrations makes it a valuable resource for parents and educators seeking to introduce the topic of race and ethnicity.
  • The Day You Begin By Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated By Rafael López: This book touches on the feeling of being an outsider and encourages kids to share their unique stories, assuring them that everyone feels different at some point.
  • Black Is A Rainbow Color By Angela Joy. Illustrated By Ekua Holmes: This book is a poetic exploration of the color black, delving into its multifaceted meanings within the Black community. It aims to make children feel seen and celebrated, while also serving as an educational tool for readers of all backgrounds.
  • Someone New By Anne Sibley O’Brien: 'Someone New' is a companion book to Anne's earlier work titled 'I'm New Here', which delves into the experiences of three immigrant children as they navigate the challenges of adjusting to their new school in the United States.
  • Last Stop On Market Street By Matt de la Peña. Illustrated By Christian Robinson: A young boy named CJ and his grandmother take a bus ride through their diverse city, teaching lessons on appreciation and community.
  • All Are Welcome By Alexandra Penfold. Illustrated By Suzanne Kaufman: This book depicts a school where kids from all backgrounds learn, play, and celebrate together, emphasizing inclusivity and acceptance.
  • We Are All Dots: A Big Plan For A Better World By Giancarlo Macrì And Carolina Zanotti: Using dots, this book visually explores concepts like migration, diversity, and acceptance, prompting discussions on building a better, unified world.
  • Julian Is A Mermaid By Jessica Love: This beautifully illustrated book follows Julian, who dreams of becoming a mermaid, touching on themes of identity, acceptance, and familial love.
  • Under My Hijab By Hena Khan. Illustrated By Aaliya Jaleel: The book provides a friendly introduction to the hijab, showing the daily lives of Muslim women who wear it and the strong women behind it.
  • Sulwe By Lupita Nyong'o. Illustrated By Vashti Harrison: Sulwe goes on a journey to discover her own unique beauty, addressing themes of self-love and colorism.
  • The Proudest Blue: A Story Of Hijab And Family By Ibtihaj Muhammad With S.K. Ali. Illustrated By Hatem Aly: This book is about a young girl's admiration for her older sister's first day wearing the hijab, emphasizing familial bonds and pride in one's culture.
  • Say Something! By Peter H. Reynolds: The book encourages children to use their voices to make a difference, emphasizing that everyone has something valuable to say or share.
  • Hair Love By Matthew A. Cherry. Illustrated By Vashti Harrison: A heartwarming story of a Black father trying to do his daughter's hair, promoting positive images of Black families and natural hair.
  • Skin Again By bell hooks And Chris Raschka: The central message of 'Skin Again' is the celebration of the self and the understanding of identity that goes deeper than skin, while also acknowledging the significance of one's outer shell. The book encourages readers to see the individuality of every person and not just stop at skin color or first impressions.
  • Hues Of YouBy Lucretia Carter Berry. Illustrated By Adia Carter: 'Hues Of You' is an interactive book designed to help children recognize and appreciate their skin shade and that of others around them. With a helpful glossary and activities, the book equips kids with the right words to describe our varied appearances.
  • The Name Jar By Yangsook Choi: After moving from Korea to the U.S., Unhei contemplates adopting an American name, but her new classmates help her recognize and appreciate the beauty of her Korean name.

Middle-Grade Books Addressing Racial Injustice

In the realm of middle-grade books, readers encounter more than just tales of adventure and fantasy. Many of these novels delve into the pressing issue of racial injustice, offering insightful perspectives tailored to young minds.

These books not only narrate compelling stories but also introduce characters grappling with racial biases, prejudice, and the fight for equality. Here's a list of notable middle-grade books that address racial injustice.

  • Brown Girl Dreaming By Jacqueline Woodson: A memoir in verse, this book recounts Woodson's childhood experiences growing up as a Black American in the '60s and '70s, during the midst of the civil rights movement and the aftermath of the Jim Crow era.
  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 By Christopher Paul Curtis: This historical fiction novel follows a Black family from Michigan as they journey to Birmingham, Alabama, a hotbed of the civil rights movement.
  • Stella By Starlight By Sharon M. Draper: Set during the Great Depression, this story about a young Black girl named Stella exposes the racial prejudices and discrimination in the American South.
  • One Crazy Summer By Rita Williams-Garcia: Three sisters travel to Oakland, California in 1968 to visit their mother and become involved with the Black Panther Party, giving them a firsthand experience of the civil rights struggles during that time.
  • Ghost Boys By Jewell Parker Rhodes: A heart-wrenching tale of Jerome, a Black boy who is killed by a police officer. As a ghost, he observes the aftermath of his death and meets other historical ghost boys, like Emmett Till.
  • Front Desk By Kelly Yang: This novel revolves around Mia Tang, a young Chinese immigrant who manages a motel with her parents. The story delves into issues of racism, immigration, and poverty.
  • Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry By Mildred D. Taylor: Set in the Great Depression-era Mississippi, the story follows the Logan family as they deal with racism and the aftermath of slavery.
  • Blended By Sharon M. Draper: The protagonist, Isabella, is a biracial girl navigating the challenges of her parents' divorce while confronting the racial dynamics of her community.
  • Genesis Begins Again By Alicia D. Williams: This story discusses colorism within the Black community, as 13-year-old Genesis grapples with her skin tone and perceptions of beauty.
  • Clean Getaway By Nic Stone: Scoob and his White grandmother take an impromptu road trip, revisiting places from her past and highlighting racial tensions both historical and current.
  • Count Me In By Varsha Bajaj: This book explores the complexities of identity, the impact of xenophobia, and the power of youth to bring about change. It delves deep into the experiences of immigrant families in America and provides a lens to view the harmful effects of hate and prejudice.
  • A Good Kind Of Trouble By Lisa Moore Ramée: Shayla navigates junior high, facing challenges of friendship and first crushes while becoming more aware of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • The Only Black Girls In Town By Brandy Colbert: When Alberta's new neighbor, Edie, moves in, they discover a series of old journals in Edie’s attic, leading them to confront the town's history of racism.
  • Harbor Me By Jacqueline Woodson: Six kids meet in their school's ARTT Room (A Room to Talk) and share their stories, which touch on topics of race, immigration, and incarceration.
  • Betty Before X By Ilyasah Shabazz And Renée Watson: A fictionalized account of the childhood of Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, illuminating the challenges and racism she faced growing up in the '40s.

Young Adult Reads On Race And Privilege

Young Adult literature offers readers a window into various aspects of life. These books serve as essential tools for understanding, and presenting intricate concepts within relatable, engaging narratives tailored for young minds.

Young Adult literature on race and privilege offers more than just entertainment. They are invaluable resources that shed light on critical societal topics, fostering a deeper understanding and prompting valuable conversations among readers. Here are some notable titles in this category.

  • The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas: After witnessing her childhood friend being killed by a police officer, Starr Carter, a Black teenager, grapples with the realities of racial injustice in America while navigating her dual life in a poor neighborhood and a predominantly white, affluent school.
  • Dear Martin By Nic Stone:Justyce McAllister, an honor student headed for the Ivy League, becomes the victim of racial profiling. He begins a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seeking answers and reflecting on Dr. King's teachings in the face of contemporary racism.
  • On The Come Up By Angie Thomas: This story follows Bri, a 16-year-old aspiring rapper. As the daughter of a late underground hip-hop sensation, Bri battles stereotypes and systemic barriers while trying to make a name for herself in the world of rap.
  • All American Boys By Jason Reynolds And Brendan Kiely: Told from two perspectives, this book highlights the story of Rashad, a Black teenager wrongfully accused of shoplifting and assaulted by a police officer, and Quinn, a white classmate who witnesses it. The incident sparks national outrage.
  • Piecing Me Together By Renée Watson: Jade, a Black teenager, believes she needs to escape her neighborhood to succeed. Through a mentorship program for 'at-risk' girls, she confronts issues of race, privilege, and identity and learns to appreciate her community's strength.
  • The Field Guide To The North American Teenager By Ben Philippe: Norris, a Black French Canadian, finds himself in Austin, Texas. Through humorous insights, he navigates the stereotypes of American high school culture, addressing issues of race and belonging.
  • American Street By Ibi Zoboi: Fabiola, a Haitian immigrant, moves to Detroit to join her cousins but faces the harsh realities of immigrant life, poverty, and systemic racism while holding onto her cultural heritage and beliefs.
  • Children Of Blood And Bone By Tomi Adeyemi: Set in a fantasy world inspired by West African culture, this novel sees heroine Zélie fighting against a ruling class that suppresses her people and their magic. It serves as a metaphor for real-world issues of race, oppression, and privilege.
  • You Should See Me In A Crown By Leah Johnson: Liz, a Black teen, decides to run for prom queen for a scholarship opportunity. Along the way, she confronts issues of race, sexuality, and socio-economic challenges in her small Midwestern town.
  • This Side Of Home By Renée Watson: Twins Nikki and Maya witness the gentrification of their Portland neighborhood. The novel delves deep into changing dynamics, race, privilege, and the sisters' evolving relationship as they approach adulthood.
  • With The Fire On High By Elizabeth Acevedo: Emoni Santiago, a teen mom of Puerto Rican and African American descent, dreams of becoming a chef. This novel follows her journey as she navigates the challenges of adolescence, motherhood, and cultural identity, all while pursuing her culinary dreams.
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here By Jay Coles: Marvin's twin brother, Tyler, goes missing after a party, only to be found dead. As Marvin grapples with grief, he also confronts societal issues of systemic racism, police violence, and the media's portrayal of Black victims.
  • I'm Not Dying With You Tonight By Kimberly Jones And Gilly Segal: In the midst of a city-wide riot, two girls; one Black, one White; must rely on each other to survive the night. The story delves into racial prejudices and the power of unity in chaos.

Books For Parents

Navigating discussions about race and racism with children is a crucial responsibility for parents. Understanding the depth and nuances of these topics is essential, and there's a wealth of literature specifically designed to help parents in this journey.

These books are carefully curated to provide insights, data, and personal stories that paint a comprehensive picture of racial issues. Here's a list of literature tailored for parents seeking to educate themselves on race and racism, ensuring they raise informed and empathetic children.

  • Between The World And Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates: Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates dives into the reality of being Black in America, touching on the experiences of Black women and men, including historical, cultural, and personal perspectives. It's a profound reflection on America's racial history.
  • So You Want To Talk About Race By Ijeoma Oluo: This book offers a frank and accessible approach to discussing race and racism. Oluo provides clear insights and actionable steps for understanding and confronting racial prejudice and structural discrimination.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness By Michelle Alexander: In this book, Alexander contends that the large-scale imprisonment of Black men in America operates as a racial hierarchy. The book offers a compelling examination of how the American criminal justice system functions.
  • Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children In A Racially Unjust America By Jennifer Harvey: Harvey offers guidance for parents aiming to raise socially conscious children in a racialized society, particularly focusing on White parents raising White children.
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race By Beverly Daniel Tatum: This book examines how children come to understand race and how racial identity development unfolds over time.
  • How To Be An Antiracist By Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi blends history, ethics, and personal narrative to describe various forms of racism and, more importantly, provides concrete proposals for how to oppose them.
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism By Robin DiAngelo: DiAngelo examines the defensive reactions some White individuals display when confronted about racism and White privilege, providing insights into how these reactions maintain racial inequality.
  • Pushout: The Criminalization Of Black Girls In Schools By Monique W. Morris: Morris delves into the experiences of Black girls in the education system, examining the policies and practices that push them out of school.
  • Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History Of Racist Ideas In America By Ibram X. Kendi: This extensive exploration dives deep into how racist ideas have evolved in America, tracing their journey from European origins to the present day.
  • Parenting For Liberation: A Guide For Raising Black Children By Trina Greene Brown: This book is a call for parents to raise their children with a sense of Black pride, instilling in them a love for their heritage and equipping them to face modern-day challenges.
  • AntiRacist Baby By Ibram X. Kendi: Written for the youngest of readers, this board book introduces foundational anti-racism concepts. While aimed at kids, it provides parents with a starting point for conversations about race.
  • Me And White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change The World, And Become A Good Ancestor By Layla F. Saad: A practical guidebook that assists readers in navigating their own relationship with White supremacy, encouraging self-reflection and actionable steps to combat racism.

Documentaries And Films

In the vast world of film, there's a trove of gems that tackle the intricate dance of race and racism. From poignant documentaries that dive deep into history and personal narratives, to cinematic masterpieces that weave tales of hope, love, struggle, and triumph, there's something for everyone.

Given the weight of the topics they address, here are some films that can be ideal for fostering meaningful conversations. Watching them with family or friends can lead to productive dialogues, offering a platform to share thoughts, learn, and grow together.

  • 13th (2016): Directed by Ava DuVernay, this documentary explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the nation's prisons that are disproportionately filled with African Americans.
  • I Am Not Your Negro (2016): Based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript, this documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson connects the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter, examining racism in America.
  • The Hate U Give: Based on the Young Adult novel of the same name, this film follows a teenager who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by the police, leading her to activism.
  • Eyes On The Prize (1987-1990): This 14-part documentary series chronicles the civil rights movement in the U.S. from the '50s to the '80s.
  • Selma (2014): Directed by Ava DuVernay, this film chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
  • Do The Right Thing (1989): Directed by Spike Lee, this film examines racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood during a hot summer day, leading to tragic consequences.
  • When They See Us (2019): A Netflix miniseries directed by Ava DuVernay that tells the harrowing story of the Central Park Five; five Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of rape in 1989.
  • American Son (2019): This drama, based on the Broadway play, focuses on an interracial couple searching for their missing teenage son, exploring race and family dynamics.
  • Fruitvale Station (2013): This film, directed by Ryan Coogler, is a dramatized account of the last day of Oscar Grant, a young Black man killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer at Oakland’s Fruitvale station in 2009.
  • Mississippi Burning (1988): Based on real events, this film follows two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.
  • The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011): This documentary presents historical footage shot by Swedish journalists who came to the U.S. in the '60s and '70s to chronicle the Black Power movement.
  • Malcolm X (1992): Directed by Spike Lee, this biographical film covers key events in the life of the civil rights leader Malcolm X.
  • LA 92 (2017): This documentary comprises archival footage to recount the events leading to the Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of the police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King.
  • Detroit (2017): Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this film revisits the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit's 1967 Uprising.
  • Dear White People (2014): A satirical drama that follows Black students at a predominantly White Ivy League institution, tackling race, identity, and cultural appropriation.

Podcasts

Podcasts are a powerful medium for in-depth explorations of topics like race and racism. They often provide a more personal, direct connection to stories, experiences, and expert insights.

One significant advantage is the flexibility in consumption. Whether during a commute, a workout, or downtime, they fit seamlessly into daily routines, allowing continuous learning without demanding undivided attention. Here are some notable podcasts that tackle these subjects.

  • Code Switch (NPR): Hosted by journalists of color, this podcast navigates the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity, and culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities.
  • 1619 (The New York Times): This podcast is an audio version of the 1619 Project, which examines the long shadow of American slavery and its ongoing impact on American society.
  • The Diversity Gap: Hosted by Bethaney Wilkinson, the podcast explores the gap between good intentions and good impact as it relates to diversity and inclusion.
  • Seeing White (Scene On Radio): This series dives into where the notion of 'Whiteness' comes from, what it means, and how it has evolved over time.
  • Intersectionality Matters! With Kimberlé Crenshaw: This podcast dives deep into contemporary debates around race, gender, and other intersecting identities.
  • About Race: Featuring Reni Eddo-Lodge, the author of 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race', this podcast takes the conversation a step further, discussing racial bias, systemic racism, and more.
  • Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast: This podcast features movement voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice, hosted by Chevon and Hiba.
  • Pod Save The People (Crooked Media): Activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, and social justice, diving deep into issues of race, police violence, and other facets of the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
  • The Stoop: Hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba delve into stories from across the Black diaspora, discussing topics that are often left out of mainstream discussions about Blackness.
  • Truth Be Told (KQED): Hosted by Tonya Mosley, this podcast serves as an advice show for people of color, offering insights into how race impacts every part of life.
  • Yo, Is This Racist?: Hosted by Andrew Ti and Tawny Newsome, this podcast confronts everyday racism by answering listener questions about various scenarios and whether they're racist.
  • Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race: A playful, thoughtful exploration of race in the form of conversations, hosted by a multi-racial cast of journalists and commentators.

Acquiring the right educational resources is paramount for parents aiming to guide their children through the complexities of racial and ethnic divides. While the topic is intricate, the multitude of available resources simplifies the process, making it both approachable and comprehensive.

The next step is action: Parents are encouraged to not only read but also critically engage with these tools, sparking insightful conversations with their children.

The journey might present challenges, but the benefits of fostering understanding and empathy are unparalleled. The tools are readily available; it's time to use them.

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Sources

https://bookriot.com/anti-racist-middle-grade-books/

https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/middle-grade-books-racial-injustice/

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2017/07/20/papua-new-guineas-incredible-linguistic-diversity

https://opil.ouplaw.com/page/498

https://time.com/5846732/books-to-read-about-anti-racism/

https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/historical-foundations-race

https://www.rebekahgienapp.com/childrens-books-about-race/

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/10/parenting-expert-shares-books-to-teach-kids-about-anti-racism-and-social-justice.html

https://www.self.com/gallery/best-books-on-race-in-america

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/implicit-bias-and-social-justice

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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