First and foremost, we wholeheartedly believe black lives matter.
As two white women, we can’t fully understand the struggles faced by people of color, but we have to try and we have to do more than post a hashtag. We believe in teaching kids from a young age about the importance of acceptance, justice, and equality.
Teaching about diversity and inclusion from an early age
We frequently participate in professional development to ensure we’re constantly improving our teaching skills. Last February, at the Get Your Teach On Conference we attended a session hosted by LaNesha Tabb. Her lesson was that learning about race, culture, diversity, inclusion, and justice isn’t reserved for adults. Children are a product of their surroundings, and those who are exposed to diverse people and cultures grow up with a better sense of empathy and understanding.
One moment of her presentation that we will never forget was when she displayed a photograph of white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
The caption for the photo said, “These students were in our classrooms. We must do better.” And it’s true. These members of society who are spewing hate into the world once sat in the same desks our current students are sitting in now.
We spend nearly as much time with our students as they do with their families. We are considered to be their role models. This means that we hold the same responsibility of instilling the values of race, culture, diversity, inclusion, and justice into their young and impressionable minds.
What teachers and parents can do
As educators, we have a unique opportunity to influence and reach hundreds of children. This can be a heavy burden to bear, but it is a responsibility that we take very seriously. We can’t teach kids to be colorblind when there is so much to teach about diversity.
Protests and demonstrations across the country are not the result of one murder, they’re the result of centuries of oppression. We are taking recent events to push ourselves, other teachers, and parents to have these difficult – but necessary – discussions with children. They deserve to understand what is happening and the power they have to make a difference.
These conversations don’t need to be explicit. It can be as simple as ensuring that students are exposed to books featuring diverse characters or discussing how our differences make us special.
It is important that we help kids understand what is happening in the world at a level that is appropriate for them. The news may be too much, but simple family conversations about racism, justice, and equality can go a long way.
Some book suggestions
A great way to start teaching kids about race, justice, and equality is through picture books. It is crucial that the books we share with our students represent them. In a world where children’s literature is extremely white-centric, we must do the work to find books with characters that represent every child in our classroom.
Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano
This story chronicles an incident of police violence against a black man. It is a great resource to help children identify and discuss racial injustice in their own lives.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
This beautiful story of a father-daughter relationship highlights the importance of loving the body, skin, and hair that you are born with. It is a wonderful resource when discussing why people look different from one another.
Chocolate Me! By Taye Diggs
This story discusses racial bullying and the importance of embracing what makes you unique. It is a great resource to use when discussing accepting others no matter how they look.
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
This story teaches children how every person’s life has their own unique story. The beautiful illustrations help show that all races and people are beautiful in their own way.
Skin Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry
This story teaches kids to embrace and celebrate their own diversity. It is a great refsource to use when discussing how people look different from one another.
Educators Making a Difference
Below are just a handful of the black educators that inspire us through their commitment to creating a fair and just world, one student at a time.
*Note: if you choose to follow these awesome educators, please do not hound them with private or direct messages asking how you can get involved. They have shared many resources publicly for you to use.*
LaNesha Tabb: Follow her on Instagram at @apron_education
Naomi O’Brien: Follow her on Instagram at @readlikearockstar
Vera Ahiyya: Follow her on Instagram at @thetututeacher
Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Follow her on Instagram at @MsPackyetti
Jose Vilson: Follow him on Instagram at @thejosevilson
Shaun Woodly: Follow him on Instagram at @teachhustleinspire
Derrick Carlson: Follow him on Instagram at @blackandbrightin2nd
Ways You Can Help
There are many ways to get involved. If you are unable to help financially, please consider signing petitions and educating yourself on the issues at hand. These lists are not exhaustive, but they’re a start.
We hope that you utilize these resources to have conversations with your kids, engage in the issues, and be a part of the solutions.