Resources for Talking to Teens About Race & Racism
As a social studies teacher, I had MANY difficult conversations with my teen students, including race and racism. My brown and black students already knew what I was talking about because they and their families lived it. I was teaching race and racism to the white kids, for whom this was completely new information.
White parents and teachers, there is still work to be done.
We must teach our teens about the impact of race and racism in America. They need to understand white privilege and systemic racism – that is the only way we will get these systems taken apart. And we must be obvious and intentional about it. This is not the time for subtlety.
I get that these conversations are awkward and difficult. Many white people of my generation were raised to be “colorblind.” That’s not how the world works, though; the world is not colorblind and that way of thinking ignores the real consequences for people of color. It also makes it almost impossible to talk to teens *about* racism.You don't have to know all the answers now. But you do need to start learning.Click To Tweet
Start the conversation with your teens about race and racism TODAY. Get 2 copies of the books and read them together. Watch documentaries on Netflix as a family. Listen to podcasts together in the car. Then talk about them. If you have older teens, include them in the learning process. What topics related to race and racism interest them?
If you’re struggling with how to handle the repeated police killings of unarmed black men or the violent protests, this is how you can make a positive change in the world. You change the children you are raising and/ or teaching.
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Resources for Talking to Teens About Race & Racism
I’ve listed the resources by medium – books, videos, websites, etc. They are mostly geared toward adults, but many of the books and videos are great for older teens.
Here’s my recommendation for how to tackle this list
- Listen to the Safe Space Radio podcast episode – Talking to White Kids About Race & Racism. It’s a great starting point.
- Order a book or two. Search for reading guides on Google.
- While you’re waiting for those books to arrive, pick your favorite medium – articles, videos, podcasts – and work your way through that list.
- Get your teen involved in this! What do they want to know more about? Learn about race together.
Books About Race & Racism
I have a lot of books in my Bookshop.org bookstore. But here are some to get your started.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Children Of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
- Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Articles & Websites
- George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?
- How to Talk to Kids About Race & Racism – from Parents Toolkit
- Resources for Parents About Race – from the American Psychological Association
- Raising Race Conscious Children
- Talking About Race – from the National Museum of African American History & Culture; this site is great for parents, teachers, and allies
- Talking to Kids About Racism, Early and Often from the New York Times
- 7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism is Real
Documentaries, Movies, & Videos
- How to talk to your children about protests and racism
- Leaving a Positive Footprint
- Race: the Power of Illusion – a series from PBS
- 13th – a documentary about the 13th Amendment and mass incarceration in the U.S.
- When They See Us – Follows the Central Park 5 – New York Black teenagers who were convicted of a crime they did not commit
- Dear White People – series about black students and their experiences at an Ivy League university
- Teach Us All – a documentary focused on current segregation in U.S. schools
- Talking to White Kids About Race & Racism – from Safe Space Radio; I highly recommend listening to this episode right away!
- Kojo For Kids: Jason Reynolds Talks About Racism And The Protests from WAMU in Washington, DC
- How To Talk To Your Kids About Race And Justice – From WBUR in Boston
- Code Switch – a podcast series from NPR; I’ve listened to this podcast for YEARS. Produced and hosted by people of color, it talks about all things race in the U.S, from school to housing to the census.
- Throughline – a U.S. history podcast from NPR. It often features stories about marginalized populations and how they affected and were affected by events in U.S. history
- Seeing White – podcast series about whiteness and its impact
- 1619 Project – from the New York Times
Lesson & Resources for Teachers
Other Teaching Resources
- Race Talk: Engaging Young People in Conversations about Race and Racism – from the Anti-Defamation League
- Talking About Racism and Violence with Students: Resources for Educators – from Colorin Colorado | Includes many links to other articles and websites for educators
- Talking About Race – from the National Museum of African American History & Culture| This site is great for parents, teachers, and allies
- Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard – from the NYU Metro Center | A way to judge how culturally responsive your chosen ELA curriculum is.
I hope this helps you to start a conversation with the teens in your life. Please start it today. You don’t need the perfect words or activities. You just need to be willing to learn about racism and share that knowledge.