University of Virginia professor writes guide on how to teach kids about racism

A professor at the University of Virginia wrote a guide teaching parents and guardians how to teach their kids about racism.

He urges them to avoid a a "colorblind or color mute approach."

University of Virginia education professor Joseph Williams wrote a guide for teaching children about race, including instructions to avoid a "colorblind or color mute approach." 

He urges people to avoid emphasizing “similarities between races.” 

The guide is aimed at teaching parents and guardians the "importance" of talking to kids about racism. The guide also seeks to tell people how to avoid “common mistakes” when talking about racism with kids.

Williams argues that teaching young children about racism is important and points to a visual that says that children at age two “use race to reason about people’s behaviors” and that “by 30 months, most children use race to choose playmates.” 

A young child’s "racial prejudice" peaks at “ages 4 and 5," according to the visual.

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He encourages parents to ask themselves “when were you first aware of your racial identity,” and to “tell a story about the earliest time in your life that you became aware of other races.”

Williams advocates "routine" talks with children about race in the guide and provides a helpful list of the "common mistakes" made when talking to children about race. 

“May never talk about the issue when acts of exclusion, rejection or discrimination occur based on race," the guide lists as one of the consequences of common mistakes or misteps."

Williams provides different strategies based on different age brackets, which are 2-5, 6-12, 13-17. When children are 2-5, parents should avoid teaching that “we are all the same.” Instead, they should “discuss differences openly and highlight diversity.”

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Parents should also “initiate conversations about race and racism" while also facing their “own biases.” Williams also encourages “preventative race chats” with children.

Megan Haselschwerdt, an education professor at the University of Tennessee, told Campus Reform that “there is no definitive age per se,” to teach children about racism. 

However, “we should be acknowledging race” and other differences “with toddlers.”

Similarly, as reported by Campus Reformduring a webinar at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Stephanie Irby Coard, a professor, said that discussions with children about racism should start around age three.

“I would say beginning at three to have those conversations," Coard said.

Campus Reform reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article: John Hanson