Talking to kids about race

photo courtesy of flickr user voxefx

I have a guest post running today over at Humane Connection on talking to kids about race.  Head on over and check it out:

What I said was: “Shoshana is one of the girls who has very dark skin. She played ‘The Two Grenadiers.’”

“Oh, yes!” Bess said. “I didn’t tell her, but I will the next time I see her.”

Was that the right thing to say? I don’t know. It felt right at the time. Or at least it felt less inappropriate than the alternative. What I said is absolutely accurate. Shoshana’s skin is darker than my daughter’s Mediterranean complexion, just as my daughter’s skin, inherited from her father, is darker than my northern European shade of pale. In one sense, it is as simple as that.

And yet…in another sense, it couldn’t be more complicated. It isn’t accurate to pretend that the difference between Shoshana and Bess is melanin-related in the same way skin color differentiates Bess from me. To imply otherwise is insincere, and unfair, and disrespectful. It is easy for me to describe Shoshana that way, given that I am speaking from a place of relative privilege. I cannot even begin to imagine all the ways in which people of color do not experience the world in the way that I do.

I’d love your feedback, either here or there.  How do you talk to your kids about race?  How do you teach them about diversity, especially if you don’t live in a particularly diverse community?  What kinds of words do you use?