Talking to your Kids about White Privilege


I am white. They say that the definition of being white is never having to think about it. Touché. When I take my daughter to a movie, grab a toy at Target, or pick up a book, I never worry whether her race or perspective will be represented. I don’t check the box to see if any of the little girls look like her. When I borrow books – stories of heroines and adventures – I never fear that she will feel excluded from the strengths and opportunities of the lead character. I benefit from the assumption that her race will always be represented, that she will always feel included in the American Dream. This is an example of White Privilege, and it’s past time that we talk to our children about it.

The problem, I suppose, is that many parents are scared. It’s hard to decide where or when to begin. It is even harder to know what to say once you start. In fact, most parents say nothing, assuming that if they are silent, their children will come to believe that race is unimportant. But as long as people’s skin color is associated with access to resources, social rewards, and the power to shape norms and values, race matters. The research tells us, and the testimony of heartbreak emphasizes, that we have to put aside sanguine “color-blind” language and talk to our kids about tough stuff. The American Journal of Sociology reports that it is actually the children of parents who talk to their kids about race that are less likely to make assumptions about others based on skin color. Privilege matters, and if we never show our white kids how to identify it and take it seriously, they will never change it. Was it Spiderman who taught us that with great privilege comes great responsibility?

I made an easy little conversation primer for talking to your kiddos about race. If you sign up for my newsletter, you will get access to a download of it. It’s cute, you’ll like it (I actually think it would make a nice picture book). But in the meantime, help your kids notice the way our society systematically excludes their friends of color. Encourage empathy, encourage them to be better. Point out that all her princesses are white except for one. Ask her how that might make a her black friends feel. Next time you buy bandaids, point out that all the “flesh color” bandaids are actually just the color of her skin. “Gosh, thats silly. Half of us in this country are dark or brown, and yet there aren’t bandaids that match. Isn’t that sad?” See if she can find a greeting card with a black person on it. Check out books and movies with Latin or African American leads. Take your children to cross-racial churches, schools, parks.

Just jump in there. I certainly am, and I feel like I flop way more than I succeed, but I have to believe that I am communicating that I want the imbalance remedied. I love Motherlode’s account of this process. Hopefully, we are teaching our children how to notice. Model a just and fair attitude. Just the other day, I made a list of 15 super cute books from @hereweeread and @afrobookworm’s feeds that featured kids with black or brown skin color. My library co-op had 2. I was disappointed, I asked to speak with the head librarian and we had a sincere talk about my concerns. Use your power. Too often, when black people complain about racial injustice, they are labelled and disregarded. As a white person, when you notice, say something, first to the people in charge, and then to your kids. Help them help others. Other AWESOME posts about this: HuffPo, OnBeing, AllParenting, 100 Race Conscious Things You Can Say to your Children

In what ways are you helping your kids notice privilege and be responsible? How are you dedicated to being vigilant for teachable moments? talking about white privilege

Wordless Picture Books: 101

Reading a book means taking in the words on the page and interpreting what they mean in the order they’re presented. But what happens when you open a book and there’s no text? How do you read a book with no words?

Reading wordless picture books is all about translating the visual narrative: what connection does this spread have to the one before it and the one after it? What can we gleam from the body language of the characters? How do their interactions change and flow as we turn the pages? All of these details help us to understand how to read the images and piece together a cohesive story.

A common thread among wordless picture books is the solo adventure. Without two characters who need to interact and talk, there’s no real need for text: the images can say everything about the characters’ journeys–both physical and emotional–on their own. The characters in Suzy Lee’s Shadow, Aaron Becker’s Journey series, and Daniel Miyares’ Float all embark on adventures wherein their imaginations lead the story. As observers of their stories, we get to watch them dream up scary monsters, travel through imaginary realms, and lose prized objects. What are their reactions to these adventures? How does what happens in one spread influence what happens in the next spread?

The absence of text also provides a fun way to showcase inter-species relationships. Humans and animals can’t speak the same language, so it’s only natural that no words are exchanged between them in picture books. We see this in such books as Molly Idle’s Flora series, David Weisner’s Mr. Wuffles!, and Stephen Savage’s Where’s Walrus. The relationships in these books develop wordlessly, so body language here is key. How are the characters interacting with each other? What is their body language like? Are they close together or far apart on the page?

Wordless picture books are fantastic opportunities to study the impact of illustration on a story.


Katie’s Post Script 

For some seriously awesome book reviews, insights, and cute pictures, follow Mel on Instagram @spiky_penelope and check out her website letstalkpicturebooks.com

If you’re looking for more suggestions for great wordless picture books click the picture below to see @chickadee.lit suggestions – I think she has some great ones on this list.

Good luck mamas! Show your kids enjoying wordless books and tell us how it goes by tagging #afriendlyaffair and #letstalkpicturebooks