Empowering Young Minds: Why Talking About Race is Essential for Building Self-Pride
Updated: Feb 19
It is crucial to have open conversations about race with young people. As parents, guardians, or organizations working with children, we are responsible for ensuring that young people have a healthy understanding of race and how it affects society. This is important for all children, regardless of their racial identity. For adults working with Black youth, proactive steps must also be taken to offset negative racial messaging that can impact a child's mental health.
Studies have shown that young children are aware of race and can internalize racial bias early on. By the age of six months, babies can notice race-based differences. Between the ages of two and four years old, children can develop a racial bias. Children can recognize basic racial stereotypes by age four, and by age seven, children understand that their observable traits, such as skin, hair, and eye color, are set features. By age nine, children become more aware of their cultural group and their place in society.
As we near the end of Black History Month 2023, it is especially pertinent to highlight the significance of building a healthy racial identity in children and youth. By talking to young people about race in a manner that promotes self-esteem and positive self-identity, we can contribute to the ongoing resistance against the pervasive effects of racism. To this end, Melissa A. Little, author of "Protecting Our Children Together: Minimizing the Psychological Harms of Racism," provides a valuable guide for approaching difficult conversations about race with children and youth. Her newly launched self-paced course, "Protecting Our Children Together: Building a Positive Racial Identity in Children and Youth," offers further support on the importance of initiating these conversations early and provides practical strategies for doing so in a way that promotes good mental health.
It is essential to create an environment where children and youth can ask questions and express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or retaliation. As parents, guardians, and organizations working with children, we are tasked to provide them with the tools to become well-rounded individuals, who embrace diversity and challenge the status quo. The book and course "Protecting Our Children Together" teaches us how to have these challenging discussions in a way that builds confidence and dignity.
We must act and create a more inclusive and equitable world. Let us embrace Black History Month's theme of Black Resistance by educating and empowering young people to become resilient and proud of their heritage. It is time to create a better future for all by fostering a healthy racial identity in children and youth.