How To Talk To Your Kids About Racism and Racial Inequality – Youth Theatre Northwest

Resources On How To Talk To Your Kids About Racism and Racial Inequality

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Video: The Doll Test on AC360

Additional Resources and Book Recommendations by age group:

A Message of Support from YTN's Leadership

Youth Theatre Northwest stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and the cry against racial inequality in our country.

Theatre gives us a platform to tell stories that are thought-provoking, challenge convention, spark conversation, and spotlight the emotions and characters who live inside all of us. Our art and training teaches the value of true listening and thought before speaking. We study the motivation behind action and silence, we understand when you take focus and when you give it. In our hands are the tools of change, and YTN commits to revitalizing these core elements as a way to provide our community with practical, actionable ways to use these skills to better our world. As educators, we can do more to consciously amplify marginalized voices. We accept responsibility, and will push ourselves and our organization to do better. We will put action behind words, be true allies, and provide a platform. And we will do it together--grownups and youth--we have much to learn from each other.

To that end, we will do the following:

  • We will give a voice to those who feel invisible.
  • We will provide resources for parents about how to talk to your child about racism.
  • We will continue to make efforts to include age appropriate social justice topics in our class curriculum and productions. 
  • We will create opportunities for more discussion and theatre workshops around racial sensitivities for teens. 
  • We will continue to be a safe place for any children and youth to come together and express themselves through theatre arts
  • We will listen: How can YTN do better?

It takes all of us and generations to make a big change. Let’s start right now.

-Mimi Katano & Kate Swenson, Co-Executive Directors of Youth Theatre Northwest

"The thing that I’ve learned most is not to shy away from talking to [my daughter] about race, or even racism, in a way that she can understand. Kids will let you know if they don’t understand, because they’ll say 'I don’t understand.'" —W. Kamau Bell

Helpful Links For Starting Conversations

With Youth On Racism and Racial Inequality

Anti-Racism 101: Starting to Talk About Race

Teaching Tolerance 

Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community

Why Teaching Black Lives Matter Matters

The Art of Tough Talks 

Guide to Allyship

Colorful Pages - #BlackLivesMatter: K-8th Distance Learning Activities for Justice for George Floyd

CNN's Sesame Street Town Hall: Elmo Asks His Dad About Protesting and Racism

CNN's Sesame Street Town Hall: Keedron's Song

CNN's Sesame Street Town Hall: Answering Questions from Viewers (video starts loud)

“There is a false narrative that children are innocent, color-blind, and believe in equality. Children are sponges and absorb what they are taught and what they observe. Unfortunately, not everything they see or learn is good." -Dr. Kimberly Harden, Department of Communication at Seattle University

"Take advantage of the diversity that surrounds you

[...] our actions are more important than our words." 

-Jeanette Betancourt, Senior VP, U.S. Social Impact for Sesame Street

during the CNN Sesame Street Town Hall Standing Up To Racism

Last Stop On Market Street

"Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them."

by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice

"Something Happened In Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues."

by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, & Ann Hazzard

Grades 3rd - 5th

Books to Teach White Children and Teens How to Undo Racism and White Supremacy

Ruby Bridges (1998 movie) available to stream on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Disney+

Find Your Local Representatives (For calling and letter writing)

KidLit Rally 4 Black Lives - The Brown Bookshelf

We've Got a Job:

The 1963 Birmingham Children's March

"We’ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail between May 2 and May 11, 1963. The children succeeded ―where adults had failed―in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America."

by Cynthia Y. Levinson

New Kid

"New Kid tells the story of Jordan Banks, an artistic Black middle school student who has transferred from public school to an elite, predominantly White private school and must contend not only with typical middle school challenges but also with microaggressions and code-switching. Told in a graphic novel format, Jordan’s experiences are rendered highly accessible to young people and include his own doodles, journal entries and handbooks for middle school students."

by Jerry Craft

Ghost Boys

"Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father's actions."

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

New Kid

"After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that's worth fighting for."

by Linda Williams Jackson

The Good Times

Are Killing Me

"Young Edna Arkins lives in a neighborhood that is rapidly changing, thanks to white flight from urban Seattle in the late 1960s. As the world changes around her, Edna is exposed to the callous racism of adults―sometimes subtle and other times blatant, but always stinging. By weaving the importance of music in adolescence with the forbidden friendship between Edna, who is white, and Bonna Willis, who is Black, Lynda Barry captures the earnest, awkward, yet always honest adolescent voice as perfectly in prose as she does in comics."

by Lynda Barry