Aren’t They Too Young to Talk about Race in Kindergarten?

Contributor: Sahba Rohani, Director of Community Development at Community Roots

We get asked all the time - isn’t it just too young for them to be talking about race in Kindergarten?   

The real question we are asking here is: is it too young for white kids to be talking about race?  Because for most children of color, choosing a time to talk about skin color and looking “different” is not a luxury they are privileged with having.  Skin color is the first things we notice in someone else.   And unfortunately, our country has been set on the foundation that that skin color determines your experience in the world.  

But in Kindergarten, the deeply etched stereotypes that plague us as we get older, and the systems we are forced to exist within, do not affect us in the same way.  At 4 and 5 years of age, we are still trying to figure all of this out.  We ask students to look at their skin and to self-identify: “I’m cinnamon.”  “I think I look a dark chocolate color.”  “I’m peach.”

And then we tell them they are all beautiful.  Every single one of them.

I was sitting in my office last week and a parent of a Kindergartener walked in.  We started to chat and I asked her: What is it that you like about sending your child to an intentionally diverse school?  “You talk about stuff,” she said, “you’re not afraid to do that.  And he is with people who are different than him, so it’s real.”

“Tell me more.”

“My son came to me before school started and said: Mommy, when am I going to be white?  I asked him if he wanted to be white, and he said yes.  So I asked him why.”

“They have better lives, they have better hair and eyes.”  

“Why do you think they have better lives?”  

“They are on TV more.”

And then he started Kindergarten here.  They started the Me Study and they were talking about their different skin, hair, eyes, and who they are on the outside and on the inside.  While they were doing the skin color conversations in Kindergarten a few weeks ago, he came home and said, “You know what mom?  I am happy to be me.  All people are different and that’s OK and we have all different colored skin and I’m proud of who I am.”

This is why we talk about race in Kindergarten.