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.

The Importance of a Set of Core Values

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

Before we even opened our doors, we were asked to think about what our Core Values look like tangibly within our school walls.  “We don’t want these to be just words on a poster or written on our letterhead, we want these Core Values to set our culture.”  

We have six core values:  

Honor Yourself and Others

Work Together

Work Hard

Help Each Other

Try New Things

Be Reflective

What will these core values look like in our students during a class discussion?  What do they look like in the hallways? In group work?  In our lunchroom?  What will they look like embodied in a staff member, an administrator, or a family member?  

The more years that go by, the more we understand the significance of having a set of values, particularly being an intentionally integrated space.  Everyone who enters our school walls represents a different set of family values, a unique perspective, and their own belief systems.  But when we are together, we all understand that we will be a space where every person is honored and will honor other people.  We are a place that practices how to be reflective and what that means in terms how how we work together, how we help each other, and how we work hard.  We are place where we will always try new things - to grow in our understanding.  

These Core Values have become the foundation on which we have built our community and their creation and implementation have been critical to who we are today.