Talking to Kids about Sensitive Subjects

Image source: giuvax via Flickr

Eventually, I know that this conversation is going to come up. There will be no way to avoid it, and there is no sense in delaying it. I’m referring to explaining culture and race to my daughter.

As some of you know, I’m African-American, my husband is Chinese-American and my daughter is Blasian (Black and Asian).

The way we are trying to raise her is with a mixture of both cultures and traditions. Our goal (one of many): when she grows up with the mixture of both cultures, it will be just what her family celebrates. No separation between the two. Seamless.

It would be easy to say that since we live in New York City she is “exposed” to all cultures and see that there are no differences, so there is no need to have this conversation. But the truth is…

If parents do not talk to their kid about race and how to perceive people that are ‘different from them’, they would simply form their opinions based on whatever [right or wrong] they gather from society.

…they will learn exactly what we don’t want them to learn.

It may seem like in this day and age there is no need to have this conversation, after all we’ve come a long way as a nation; we have Obama as president, and Opera the richest woman alive. Regardless of these figures (and other millionaires), we really haven’t progressed far enough to not talk about race and culture.

This country has yet to have an honest discussion about race, cultures, and everyone’s history in creating this country (at least why it is the way it is today).

So for me to pretend that I am in a post-racial society (and raise my daughter as such), is irresponsible.

I would hope that with my generation (Gen Y), we could finally have these open discussions without anger, or guilt, or denial.

Our silence and reluctance to talk about these things with our kids are telling our kids loud and clear that their parents are uncomfortable discussing race, therefore they cannot talk to their parents about these things.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our kids pick up easily on our discomforts and sometimes mirror them. This will cause the next generation to have the same problems.

It’s not just important for me to teach my daughter history and important figures (Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Huey P. Newton, Shirley Chisholm) but it is important for her to know why we needed these leaders in the first place.

It’s been said here and here, that kids start classifying people as young as three years old, so I know it’s time to step up my game.

Parents, have you talked to your kids about race and culture? If so, how did you start it? If not, what are your reasons?


Things that make you go hmm…:

Children as young as 3 have ‘complex understanding of race’

See Baby Discriminate (via Newsweek)

Kids’ test answers on race brings mother to tears (via CNN)

Readers: Children learn attitudes about race at home (via CNN)

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KalleyCAmy (Super Healthy Kids)AndiekitaMimi Recent comment authors
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I have had to have this conversation with my son. He actually prompted me when he started talking about certain people at school and he would preface with she’s a black girl or he’s a white boy. I took that as an opportunity to start the race talk and that its not necessary to recognize people by their skin color. I have encouraged him to use other descriptive words, like she is a great singer or reads well to describe his friends. While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg I figured if I start him early… Read more »


Funny you should mention this. My son does not like to use the word black when referring to black people he likes the word brown. He says why do they call us black when we are brown. His teacher wrote a note to please correct him because he refers to black kids as brown (his teacher is white) I got mad and spoke to her about it. I understand it’s the correct term but I feel if he wants to say the brown girl why can’t he. She understood my point and I understood hers but we tell him that… Read more »


Ok first of all I love both of the last two comments! So true.
And I think it is part of how we raise them every day. To try and be kind and understanding. Not just by how we teach them through conversations but also by example.
Man this parenting gig is complicated!

Amy (Super Healthy Kids)

I love this conversation. I love what Kita said, because my kids were confused when people referred to our neighbor girls as black, when they were clearly “brown” in their minds. Then, my 8 year old (who is Caucasian but tans very easily) always colors himself brown when he is coloring. I’ve told him he is technically white, but he doesn’t agree. LOL