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Handling Racism: Speak Up

Our mission at News-O-Matic goes well beyond sharing daily news for kids. We seek to inspire the next generation to grow into empathetic, responsible global citizens with respect for people of all backgrounds. That means having honest conversations however difficult about race in America.  The following is the first article in our “Handling Racism” series, a resource that teachers and parents can use to facilitate these conversations with kids.

Racism may be a very difficult topic to talk about. Many people have had painful experiences. Others may not have seen it with their own eyes and might not understand how big of an issue it is. You likely have your own feelings about it. You might be angry, upset, frustrated, or scared. However you are feeling, it is OK.

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is a psychologist, educator, and author. She has written several books about how kids can discuss racism with their families, including Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? One of her messages is clear: It’s key to talk about this issue.

“Avoiding the topic is not a solution,” Tatum told USA Today. “Being able to talk about something with a supportive adult can reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty,” the expert added.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to have these conversations. “Years and years of unfairness — racism — results in intense anger and frustration,” Tatum explained. But working with your family to better understand this issue will help. Allow yourself to have any feelings that come up as you learn more — whatever they are.

Dwayne Reed is a 4th-grade teacher in Chicago, Illinois. He is black, and most of his students are black as well. “Your expression of your emotions is perfectly reasonable,” he said. And that’s an important message he shares with his students. Reed has talked a lot about racism in his class — including about the recent death of George Floyd.  Among the many questions Reed’s students asked were:

  • “Why is this still happening?”

  • “Why is no one doing anything?”

  • “Why is it that a police officer can get away with doing this?”

You may be asking yourself similar questions. But it’s important to remember that so many people are taking action to stop racism in the United States, including local leaders and organizations. You have a role to play as well. Reed shared a message for all kids: “It will get better if you do things to make it get better.”

Over the next few days, News-O-Matic will have stories about specific ways to help. And it doesn’t matter what color your skin is — you can help. But any change begins by speaking out. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, and talk to your teachers. It’s always better to say something than to stay silent — even if it’s hard or even if you’re afraid to say something wrong.

“Take the time to voice your emotions,” said Reed.

“A conversation can give children a helpful frame for understanding difficult realities,” Tatum said. She added, “The conversation can be about what we must do to fix the continuing unfairness.”


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