Race, Class, and Other Complexities

It is easy to sidestep frank conversation about race, class, gender and sexuality, and disabilities. But if our children are to be justice-makers, we must talk.

Children naturally notice racial and cultural differences and economic, social, and other disparities. Make it your mission to affirm their questions. Give truthful answers as best you can; admit what you do not know. Model lifelong learning. Together with your kids, ask, "What can we do about it?"

Interpersonal, internalized, social, and systemic oppressions affect anyone who holds a marginalized identity, and many people hold several (this is called "intersectionality," explained in this animated video from Teaching Tolerance). Meanwhile, members of dominant groups act on internalized messages of superiority, which feeds racism and other injustices. Build your own self-awareness of the identities and privileges you hold. Help children, in age-appropriate ways, to name the dynamics of oppression and explore how we can change them.

  • Adapt UU White Supremacy Teach-In resources. The Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) organizing collective assembled stories, activities, and reflections for different age groups for the first UUA-wide white supremacy teach-in in spring, 2017 and the second teach-in in fall, 2017. The BLUU teach-in resources include many gems adaptable for family use. On this page, scroll to find the age group(s) that apply and activities that will appeal to your family.
  • Invite differences and diversity into family conversation. Use these Identity and Race family discussion suggestions by Jacqui James as inspiration and guide. Books can be great conversation-starters; read Louise Derman Sparks's Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books on the website of Social Justice Books, a Teaching for Change project.
  • Explore the Raising Race Conscious Children website. With the statement "It starts one conversation at a time," the website is a fabulous source for approaches and examples of talking with young children about race.
  • Find videos to watch with middle- and high-schoolers and strategies to start conversations in "Intersectionality 101 for Kids," an article on the Patheos website tagged "progressive Christian/unfundamentalist parenting."
  • Hear from parents in “Talking to kids about race and class,” a brief CNN report from August, 2014. The interviews with parents, both white and of color, demonstrate why all families must talk about current events and the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Study the insidious nature of racism. Watch a report on The Doll Test, a well known racial bias study of very young children. Then, watch Part 1 and Part 2 of a 2012 CNN Report with Anderson Cooper in which a variety of elementary and middle-school age kids share their experiences and perceptions of racial bias.​ Make time to screen the "doll test" report with your kids. Afterward, start a conversation by asking, "What do you think it means that most of the children, white and of color, prefer the white doll?" You need have all the answers. Affirm their questions and concerns. Brainstorm what you can do to fight racial bias.

The Unequal Opportunity Race

Watch this animated video, from the African American Policy Forum, with children 10 and older. Be ready to use examples and personal stories to help children recognize barriers to success such as discrimination, the school-to-prison pipeline, the "old boy network," and lower life expectancy (poor access to healthcare and nutrition) that disproportionately affect people of color and women.

Animation: The Unequal Opportunity Race

At the UUA's 2012 General Assembly, a workshop panel of UU religious educators shared stories, reflections, and guidance for talking with children about injustice and prejudice in the context of immigration and race. Read the transcript or watch a video of the workshop here.

Talking with Children about Immigration

How Kids Changed the World

In this engaging, nine-minute video from Scholastic News Magazine, civil rights activist Ayanna Najuma recollects her participation with other children and youth in the Civil Rights era lunch-counter sit-ins. "Our small group of kids helped change the world...You have a voice, too. How are you using it?"

These kids demonstrate that, from a young age, we can explore complex social justice concepts.