February is Black History Month. Have you had an honest conversation with your kids about racism? We spoke to Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race to find out what you should say, and when:
Don't be afraid to bring it up. For many parents, the race talk is as difficult as the birds and the bees talk. Dr. Tatum attributes this awkwardness to a lack of communication about race in many of our own childhoods. "There are concerns about saying the wrong thing and sounding racist, even if that is not the intent." says Dr. Tatum. "Sometimes parents naively believe that if they talk about issues of race with their children, they will cause them to notice race in a way that they did not before."
Look for teaching moments. Not sure how to get the conversation started? If your child comments on different skin colors, that's an easy in. Children's books that discuss race are also a gentle introduction. Or, you can look for subtle openings in everyday life. "I was cooking with my 3-year-old," says Dr. Tatum. "We used the last white egg in the carton, and then took out another carton of eggs, this time brown eggs. My son noted that the eggs were different in color. 'Yes,' I said, as we cracked both eggs open, 'But look -- they are the same inside. Just like people, they come in different shades, but they are the same on the inside.'"