Photo from The Clark Doll Experiment (1939) was an experiment done by Dr Kenneth Clark and his wife Dr. Mamie Clark where they asked black children to choose between a black doll and a white doll. The dolls were the same except for their skin color but most thought the white doll was nicer. The test has been repeated in recent years with the same results.

From RIISE: “Five Myths of Talking About Race With Your Child”

Photo from The Clark Doll Experiment (1939) was an experiment done by Dr Kenneth Clark and his wife Dr. Mamie Clark where they asked black children to choose between a black doll and a white doll. The dolls were the same except for their skin color but most thought the white doll was nicer. The test has been repeated in recent years with the same results.

Here’s an article I found online today that I feel could be useful for talking about race with children.

Written by Jaime-Jin Lewis, Executive Director of a racial justice nonprofit named Border Crossers:

“I get a lot of mixed feedback when I say that adults need to learn to speak openly about race with young children. They are afraid of spoiling their childhood or crushing their natural curiosities. However, when we look at the root causes of racial inequity in this country, we see that they grow out of the lessons we learn in our earliest years. In fact, honest conversations about race have a positive impact on children, honoring their observations and lived experiences, and better preparing them to recognize and undo social injustice in their lives. Then, why don’t we do it more?”

“The truth is that most of us adults have incomplete and competing ideas about the role of race in our own lives. Young children’s comments often illuminate the uncomfortable gap between our good intentions and the thorny truths of the world.”

Citing her own work with talking about race with children, Jaime-Jin Lewis wrote in detail about these 5 myths that can be used by adults as excuses for not talking about race with kids:

1. Children don’t see race.

2. Talking about race creates racist thinking.

3. Exposure to diversity is enough.

4. My child said something racist, therefore I must be a bad parent.

5. I don’t have all the answers.

I encourage you to read the article in its entirety because the author goes into more detail about each of these myths, and offers suggestions that could be useful for working against them.

Children are smarter than they are often given credit for.

Don’t forget, cartoons can also be useful conversation starters…



From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW



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Written by

I’m a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities.

“Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian” is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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3 Responses

  1. I was thinking about this post and your link to the five myths of talking about race with your child article all this past week. The hardest part was not mocking myself while the event was happening for not having the words I wanted. In any event, I wanted to let you know what you write is considered as real life happens.

    I tried to write up some of the story on my blog this week. It’s interesting because it’s the first time I think my daughter has come out with her feelings of worry her race makes her different from the rest of our family.


    • You’re very welcome Geof,

      I’m really glad that my notes are helpful to you in some way. I’m glad that you have been thinking about this for the past week. That’s one of the goals, and one of the reasons that I like sharing these stories with my readers. Sometimes I come across something and get so excited that I want to share it with someone else. That is how this note came about.

      I appreciate your honesty about how you were feeling about things when your own event was happening. Sometimes the words don’t come out the way we would like them to. But from the exchanges we’ve had in the past, it seems as if you are very dedicated to learning about how to better handle these things when they come up. Thanks for sharing that post with me.

      I’m glad that you don’t want your kids to run away from these kinds of conversations. I takes courage to have them. Although at times it may seem as if your message might not always stick, keep trying. Both in engaging your kids and increasing your understanding about ways to communicate with them on issues of race.

      If you want to read more stories about parenting and race, visit the blog love isn’t enough: A blog about parenting and race at

      I hope the stories shared there can be useful to you as well.

  2. Cade DeBois (@cadedebois) says:

    Here’s something I’ve been struggling: I work in an ISD that is about 74% Latino. White kids know they’re white. The few black and Asian kids know they’re black or Asian (when you’re either the only black or Asian kid or the only black or Asian kid of your gender in your class in a school with no black or Asian adults, you don’t get to pretend you’re not). Native kids know they’re Native. But more often than I like, some of younger Latino kids shock me. Many of them don’t know they are Latino. Some even get upset if an adult has to address their race because all they hear is how “Mexicans” and other Latinos are bad. Or they think only their darker-skinned Latino classmates are “Latino” (oh yeah, we got colorism out the you-know-what and it’s always such a joy to have to address it in the classroom). I had one class of 3rd graders where Latino students were talking about how cool it’d be to have slaves like early white Americans — yeah — and I had the hardest time getting them to understand that the system of slavery that we had in the US would not have benefited them (and doing so without crossing some line that would have sent angry parents storming to the principal) and that any system based on racism was inherently wrong.

    While there are a lot of touchy politics here about race–like how Latinos see themselves in relation to other people of color and to white people–what bothers me most is that these kids 1) definitely see race but 2) see it as something that only effects other people, and not them. And when you jump up a few grades to the older kids who, in addition to going through puberty, have had the realization that 1) they’re not raceless afterall but in fact 2) are of a race that is systemically discriminated against in this country, they become very hostile toward the whole issue of race because now being Latino just means to them is that all this racism crap in our society is now aimed at them too.

    I’ve seen too many kids like this who go from ignorance to self-loathing, simply because once they realize their identity has that racial dimension they cannot see their race as anything but a disadvanage. There has to be a better way. I think parents do need to talk to their kids about race if only so they can associate it with more than racism and who ‘wins’ and who ‘loses’ in our society, but with family, community, culture and heritage. As far as I can see, kids who become self-loathing about their own racial identity are not to all prepare to face the challenges ahead of them. What we need is for these kids to grow up prepared to face systemic racism and to be able to address it and challenge it. And that mean giving them something solid and positive they can root their identity in, something that tells them that, yes, they are Latino–or black, Asian, or Native–and while racism will effect them, racism does not define them.

    And one last thing, about telling kids you don’t have all the answers: I think this is very important. When racial issues come in my classes, like they did very recently when I did a special project with our 2nd graders for MLK’s birthday, I let the kids ask all the questions they wanted and told them very hoenstly that things aren’t yet as MLK had hoped they would be, that there is still a lot of work to be done and that there are some things we are still learning about what it means to live in a multiracial world. I think that kind of honesty from adults encourages them to think more on their own–I found it certianly encouraged my students to ask more thoughtful questions. And I think kids need that, to begin to prepare themselves for the kind of questions they will have to ask as adults about these very same issues.

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