How Do We Teach Our Kids About Racism?

A video about some Philadelphia teens Skyping youth from around the world got me thinking.

Meghan Rivard March 07, 2015
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In this video, teenagers in Philadelphia have the opportunity to talk to other youth from around the world about their experiences. At one point, a young woman asks the boys an important question.

“Is your school safe? Is your city safe? Have you experienced racism, and if so, how? I didn’t experience it, and I hope that I’ll never experience it.”

One of the boys, only 12, answered, ”Yes, I have experienced racism in my life. When I was at the store, I actually had someone follow me thinking I was stealing something, and I actually wasn’t. That made me feel sad.”

Have you experienced racism or prejudice with your adopted child, especially if you are a transracial family? I, personally, know what it feels like when someone says one insensitive comment that ruins your whole day. There are many ways to respond to it. You can ignore it, you can make a rude comment back, or you can use it as a positive learning opportunity. It is an opportunity to talk to your child and ask them how that comment made them feel. They will get asked questions at school and will need to know a good way to respond to “Why do you look different than your mom and dad?” or “Where is your real mom or dad?”

I have had situations where I was asked “Is she yours?” and my only response was “Yes.” My daughter is not in school yet, but I am already contemplating issues that she will probably encounter because of her race. Hopefully, I would be there to “fight for her,” but realistically, I know I will not always be with her to console her, and she will be the one that needs the answer.

There are many good resources that address racism with the schools. One website, tolerance.org, provides classroom resources, classroom simulations, and anti-bias literacy lesson plans. Another adoption resource, “SAFE at Schools,” discusses how to complete school assignments, such as a family tree or bringing in family pictures, in a sensitive manner.

You can’t protect your child from insensitive comments from adults or other children, but hopefully, you can help your child to know how to deal with those comments and experiences without damaging his or her self-esteem.

What will you do to help stop this global phenomenon of racism?

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Meghan Rivard

Meghan is an adoptive mother and a big advocate of adoption and foster care. She resides in Indiana with her husband, their one-year-old daughter who is the center of their lives, and their dog Max. She has a Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Meghan stays at home with her daughter but is so happy she found this outlet to share her personal adoption story and educate about adoption!


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