If you’re new to the conversation about racism and bias, talking to children about it can seem overwhelming. Doing so means asking hard questions, constantly learning and always listening. It also means addressing your own privilege and bias. A place to begin the discussion is in our classrooms, where conversations around racism are a part of the fabric of students’ lives. If children are asking these questions, we need to be ready to answer them.
of teachers in high-need regions* say racism and hate speech are relevant issues for their students.
of classroom conversations about racism are prompted by students.
of teachers wish they had more resources to address racism with their students.
To help those who may not know why, where, when or how to begin this conversation, USC Rossier has created Speak Up: Opening a Dialogue With Youth About Racism — a collection of interviews, resource guides and op-eds aimed at answering some of the questions that can make these topics difficult, and prompt needed discussions about identity, inequality and education for children of color.
Scroll below to learn more about the racial inequities in children’s lives today or use the navigation at the top of this page to explore other resources.
Children ask questions about racism because they see and experience inequalities and inequities in the world around them. Childhood trauma, disciplinary action and the lack of visibility of people who look like them — children of color are disproportionately and adversely affected by such things. These disparities are illustrated in the following charts.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that happen before the age of 18. They encompass different types of neglect, abuse and hardship like the death of a parent, neighborhood violence and the inability to afford food and housing. ACEs are also linked to lifelong health risks like obesity and cancer.
Over one-fifth of children in the United States experience multiple ACEs, and children of color are disproportionately affected.
Children of color receive a disproportionate number of school suspensions and expulsions. But that discrepancy trickles down even further: the same trend is visible in preschools. Black children make up almost half of all multi-day suspensions in preschool, despite accounting for less than 20 percent of enrollment.
Black students who have at least one Black teacher by the end of elementary school are almost 30 percent less likely to dropout of high school. However, students of color are less likely to see themselves reflected in classroom leadership — over 50 percent of students are students of color, compared to 20 percent of teachers.
Even in places where representation can be created, it’s lacking. About 75 percent of movie characters are white, and children’s television characters are also disproportionately white. Data on children’s books shows that even though more books are being written by and about people of color, it’s still nowhere close to an accurate picture of what children look like today.