Racism and The Very Important Question of “Other”


No doubt right now, there are children asking about racism, and riots, and the general state of marginalized people. Maybe your child is feeling unsafe and confused themselves, or maybe they’re empathizing with children who are. Maybe they’re wondering what they can do to help, or why these conflicts have to happen at all.

These are all very important feelings and thoughts, for thinkers of all ages, and thankfully, there’s all kinds of discussion online about how we can address them with our children. We want to reiterate, as many sources have been lately, that it’s never too early to start talking about racism, or any kind of discrimination, with your child. There are ways to approach it in an age-appropriate manner that will open up dialogue and have a lasting, positive impact.

One very useful and accessible approach is to talk with little thinkers about the whole idea of “other”. It sounds big and complicated, and it is, but asking questions and having open conversations about it can get your whole family thinking.

Here are some questions to try:

  • How am I different than everyone else? What do I have in common with all other human beings?
  • If I don’t understand someone else, what’s the best way to find out what I need to know?
  • Is calling someone “other” a bad thing? How do we treat people differently when we think of them as “other”?
  • Who gets to decide who is “other”?
  • How does it feel to know that for some people, I am “the other”?

It doesn’t have to involve long conversations, but it should be a topic that gets discussed regularly. If it’s addressed in abstract, general terms, it’ll lend itself to all kinds of different scenarios. You’ll be able to talk about all kinds of systemic discrimination in a framework that a child can understand and relate to. They’ll get an early start on thinking critically about discrimination, and you’ll get a chance to guide them through a difficult, but important issue.