Talking with Children About Racism and Violence
Photo courtesy: Win McNamee, Getty Images

August 18, 2017

The recent disturbing expressions of racism and violence in Charlottesville are undoubtedly weighing upon the hearts and minds of our community. At Head-Royce, we are guided by our values of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion, and the recent events are a stark contradiction to the principles we hold dear. As we embark upon another school year, teachers and administrators are committed to ensuring that students have a safe space in which to have age-appropriate conversations around these difficult topics.

Depending on the age of your child, you may have already had to enter into dialogue around racially-incited violence and hate language. Discussions of this nature are best approached with careful attention to the unique needs and attributes of each individual child. Specifically, we must be mindful of not overburdening children with details and concepts that they are incapable of processing from a developmental standpoint. While experts agree that it’s best to shelter younger children (grade 3 and younger, generally speaking) from difficult news and imagery, older children may benefit in important social and emotional ways from openly discussing and examining real-world problems, expressing anger and other normal feelings, and positing solutions for substantive change. Feelings of helplessness can in fact be transmuted into expressions of empowerment.

Regardless of age or temperament, all children can benefit from the ability to express themselves freely during times of uncertainty, with the knowledge that they are being heard and that the adults in their lives are committed to ensuring their safety. This recent Los Angeles Times article offers additional insights into talking to children about racism and violence. The New York Times also put together a list of age-appropriate reading resources that can be helpful in these conversations. And, NPR offers resources for educators that offer many relevant insights for both parents and teachers.

As our professional community returns to campus next week for a series of opening meetings, we will be working with Glenn Singleton, author of Courageous Conversations (one of our professional community’s summer reading selections), to help us further engage in critical conversation around how we talk about race in an intentional way. Mr. Singleton’s writing and work is centered around the belief that “all races can achieve at their highest levels and live their most empowered and powerful lives.”

It is personally very difficult to watch the hate and racism that is publicly unfolding in our country. For all of our families, and particularly for our students of color and new families, I want to assure you that we are committed to creating an educational environment that promotes civil and respectful dialogue about what’s on our hearts and minds. I often refer to the volume of Martin Luther King, Jr’s essays, Strength to Love. He reminds us: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” That will be a part of our work with your children as school begins.

- Crystal Land, Head of School

  • Diversity
  • equity & inclusion
  • tolerance