The Danger of Being ‘Color Silent’: Talking about Race with Young Children
Oct 20, 2021
Young children are like sponges, absorbing information about the world around them. Children have already started to internalize racialized messages about their value and self-worth by the time they are three to four years old. Psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, an expert in racial identity development and the author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race” calls this “the smog we’re all breathing.”
In our Season 2 premiere of Early Risers, host Dianne Haulcy talks with Tatum about concrete steps parents and caregivers can take to proactively affirm children, including how to respond when children ask us questions about race and physical differences.
Tatum’s best-selling book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations About Race” was first published in 1997. She released an updated 20th anniversary version in 2017.
Tatum’s 2017 TedX Stanford talk, “Is My Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk?” features stories and practical advice about talking to very young children about race, including addressing the painful history of chattel slavery.
Faith Ringgold’s “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky” is one of Dr. Tatum’s favorite books to use with young children to open conversation about the horrors of chattel slavery and the courage of people who resisted. She also suggests Jeanette Winter’s “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”
Tatum recommends Social Justice Books for discovering multicultural and social justice books for children.