So you've decided to raise an anti-racist child. Perhaps something profound has brought you to this crossroads. For many parents, the murder of George Floyd, in 2020, and the nationwide reckoning that followed, was the catalyst for taking a proactive approach with the next generation.
Yet, a lot has changed politically since then. Conservative backlash to concepts like anti-racism and critical race theory, along with protests that target educators and books that address racism, challenge parents and caregivers to remain committed to raising children who understand and practice anti-racism.
Of course, for countless other parents there is no choice, only the reality of knowing how the world will treat their Black child or child of color and the overwhelming instinct to protect them, particularly from anti-Black racism.
Andrew Grant-Thomas, cofounder of the educational site EmbraceRace, says that while interest in anti-racism parenting resources appears to have receded from the "high water mark" of 2020, research suggests caregivers remain quite open to teaching their kids about a race.
A nationally representative, forthcoming survey of parents commissioned by EmbraceRace in December 2022 found that 84 percent of respondents were "very" or "extremely" open to these conversations. Two-thirds of participants felt the matter was of "real urgency." However, only 39 percent of parents reported doing anything to make those discussions happen.
Grant-Thomas says this is largely because parents felt their children were too young. While research indicates children develop racial biases by preschool or kindergarten, the stubborn myth that they're unaware of race and racism until well into childhood persists, Grant-Thomas notes.
"I really think a lot of that 'the kids are too young' stuff is really parents' own fears of not being able to do their part — simply not knowing how to do it," says Grant-Thomas.
That's where the following list of books, guides, websites, and podcasts can be useful. They provide language, context, and history that parents often feel they're lacking when they try to tackle discussions about race with their children.
But once you've chosen to teach your children about anti-racism, experts say it's imperative to begin with a reckoning of your own racial identity and beliefs. Being "not racist" simply isn't enough, according to author and historian Ibram X. Kendi. If you cannot accept that racist ideas are everywhere and that you knowingly or unwittingly hold racist views, have voted for racist policies or politicians, or make racist choices, you will struggle to teach your child to be anti-racist.
That's because you cannot raise an anti-racist child without honesty and critical self-reflection. This is indeed the trap of good intentions: When you believe your efforts are noble but cannot hold yourself truly accountable, you will continue to perpetuate racism and teach your child how to do the same. The journey you're on now is hard, uncomfortable, and lifelong.
When it comes to books, which are a go-to medium for many parents, consider a few things. First, have foundational conversations about race and racism with your children before or at the same time you introduce new books on the subject, and before a national tragedy makes headlines. Adding to your library in the meantime may give you a sense of accomplishment, but the real learning happens in everyday conversation with a child — and in answering difficult questions.
Also, be sure your collection includes stories in which Black, brown, and Indigenous children experience joy, adventure, and love. Otherwise, you may inadvertently portray their experiences as suffering, and not incredible resilience.
The following list of resources to help you move forward isn't an exhaustive compilation — these are starting points from which you can explore and challenge yourself.
1. All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color, by Katie Kissinger, offers a straightforward yet engaging explanation (in English and Spanish) of melanin and why people's skin comes in different shades and hues. It's best suited for older preschoolers and elementary school-age children. Knowing these basic facts will help you talk to a child about race.
2. How to Raise an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, addresses the ways structural racism shows up in children's lives and experiences, and why it's so critical to talk to them about it throughout key developmental stages. Kendi brings his own candid perspective as a Black father and scholar of antiracism to the difficult topics he encounters.
3. Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race, written by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli and illustrated by Isabel Roxas, is a board book that combines principles of early childhood education and activism in an approachable way for parents of young kids.
4. Raising Antiracist Children: A Practical Parenting Guide, by Britt Hawthorne, takes concepts you may have heard but don't fully understand — think "global majority," "microaggressions," and "co-conspirator" — and explains them in the context of teaching your children to take meaningful action against racism.
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5. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, is a guide to having honest conversations about race and racism for readers of all backgrounds.
6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice, written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard and illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, takes place in the wake of a police shooting that leaves a Black man dead, and the reader watches how conversations about the tragedy unfold in different households. Written by three child psychologists, the book aims to give all parents, regardless of their racial or ethnic identity, tools for having tough conversations with elementary school-age children about police violence.
7. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, written by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, is a "remix" of Kendi's award-winning book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. (The latest iteration of that book is a graphic novel.) The collaboration condenses the history of racist ideas and plows through centuries of time in a snappy 246 pages. Chapters are typically no longer than 10 pages. Sometimes the font is bolded and enlarged to drive home a point, and numbered lists frequently break down complex ideas. It's a great read for both adults and young adult readers.
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8. Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community, by Liz Kleinrock, is designed for educators who want to "break the habits" that hold adults back from transforming schools.
9. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work (Volume 1), written by Tiffany Jewell and illustrated by Aurelia Durand, helps young people learn about themselves and racial oppression in a step-by-step approach.
10. This anti-racism resource guide was written and shared by a user named Tasha K. in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery's death. The list offers numerous recommendations, including suggestions for topic areas like ethnic studies, teaching, immigration, and voting.
11. Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein compiled this Google doc of anti-racism resources for white people. It includes recommendations for parents as well as suggested books, articles, podcasts, and organizations to follow.
12. Astrophysicist and author Sarafina Nance put together this list of anti-racism resources, which includes information about where to donate, petitions to sign, ways to take action, what to read, and discussion questions.
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Online Resources and Websites
13. The Big Heart World guide to discussing race with children offers simple activities to start conversations about the topic, among other tools. The guide is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
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14. The Conscious Kid is an organization that focuses on promoting access to children's books that feature "underrepresented and oppressed groups." Its book subscriptions help parents discover stories for all youth age ranges, including infants and toddlers. It also publishes "critical conversations" with authors, academics, and activists.
15. EmbraceRace is a standout source for both white parents who want their children to be thoughtful allies as well as parents of color working to raise confident, resilient children. The site offers webinars, tipsheets, book suggestions, and more.
16. The Girl Scouts' tipsheet on taking action against racism is clear, thoughtful, and direct. It offers readers advice on how to start talking about race with their children, how to teach them inclusiveness, and how to empower them to challenge racism when they see it.
17. The Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley shared a list of resources to help people understand the the science behind bias and discrimination, and how to reduce or eliminate those impulses over time. It includes a reading list for parents.
18. The National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Smithsonian partnered to produce a website on talking about race. Sections specifically on anti-racism and parenting provide valuable information and thought-provoking guidance.
19. Freedom Means is a podcast hosted by Grace Aldrich, a storyteller and mom, and Emma Redden, a preschool teacher. In each episode, Aldrich and Redden model conversations about race, racial violence, and colonialism.
20. Nice White Parents takes listeners on a thoroughly reported journey to understand the fate of a New York City school. The five-part series, created by the New York Times and Serial Productions, raises hard questions about the decisions white parents make about where to send their children to school, and what that has to do with race and racial equity.
21. The Seeing White podcast is a production from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and is distributed by the public radio nonprofit organization PRX. The second season, which explored the "history and meaning of whiteness," is essential listening for parents.
22. So Get Me, a podcast from the Grammy-nominated children’s hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers, is for families of all backgrounds who want to work for racial justice. In their music and work with school children, the Alphabet Rockers encourage kids to practice intervening when they witness exclusion of any kind in school or out in public, including racism and prejudice.
Originally published in June 2020, this story was updated in June 2023.