How to talk to kids about the Chauvin verdict and race

A woman and her daughter hold signs
Cherish Brown (right) and her daughter Sarai joined the crowd in downtown Minneapolis for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case.
Tim Nelson | MPR News file

The news cycle over the past week has been relentless.

Kids are paying attention to what’s happening and they want to learn. But it can be hard to know how to address heavy topics with young people.

So how should teachers and families talk to kids about racism, police killings and the conviction of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin? 

Here are a few resources:

7 tips: How two Black Minnesota teachers discuss racism with their fifth-grade students

“To not address it, once again, is that silence piece and it is complicit because you are erasing the experience of kids of color, communities of color,” said Qorosho Hassan, who taught fifth graders at a Burnsville elementary school and was a recent Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

“You’re also really kind of creating more space for that confusion, that anger, that hurt to not be checked, to not be processed, and I think that that is dangerous.”

MPR News host Angela Davis’ conversation about having ‘the talk’ with kids about race

Two fathers joined the program to talk about why parents of color have long felt they must have this conversation with their children, and how parents can explain recent events to young people. Listen to the program here.

Angela Davis’ virtual discussion about talking race and racism with kids

Dianne Haulcy, host of the Early Risers podcast, answered parents’ questions about raising children in this moment. How do we talk about race, racism, equity and fairness with the youngest people in our lives? Listen to the program here.

NPR’s quick guide on talking race with young children

A few recommendations:

  • Don't shush or shut them down if they mention race.

  • Don't wait for kids to bring it up.

  • Be proactive, helping them build a positive awareness of diversity.

  • When a child experiences prejudice, grown-ups need to both address the feelings and fight the prejudices.

  • You don't have to avoid topics like slavery or the Holocaust. Instead, give the facts and focus on resistance and allies.

NPR’s guide on how white parents can talk to their kids about race

Michel Martin, weekend host of All Things Considered, spoke with Jennifer Harvey, author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” about the consequences of silence — and how to have healthy conversations with their children about race.

Podcasts! Code Switch’s episodes on race that are kid-appropriate

From the Code Switch team:

“Over the past few weeks, all of us at Code Switch have noticed that a lot of you have children — bright young minds with boundless energy, just waiting to learn how to fight the power and advance racial justice. (Right?) But with everything that's going on, finding ways to critically engage school-age kids has been a challenge at best. With that in mind, we've compiled a playlist tailor-made for our youngest listeners.”

A 7-minute listen on how parents can help their kids understand how to be anti-racist

What does it mean to be anti-racist and how should adults talk to kids about race and racism? NPR's Noel King talks to children's author Renee Watson and anti-racism scholar Ibram Kendi.

EdWeek talked to two Minnesota teachers on how and why they’re addressing the Chauvin trial in class

From the story:

“Two Black teachers in Minnesota, which has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement and the location for several high-profile shooting deaths of Black people over the past year attested to the need to discuss police brutality with their students. Although it is emotionally exhausting and they risk facing backlash from parents or their district, both teachers said not addressing systemic racism is doing a disservice to their students and to themselves.”

Educators and experts across Minnesota weighed in on social media this week, too. Here’s some of their advice:


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