An op-ed in the Oct. 13 New York Times, “Only White People” by Topher Sanders, struck a chord with many in the BFS community. Read the Letter to the Editor written by Pre and Lower division heads Maura Eden and Jackie Condie that makes the case for actively addressing difference and racism in the early childhood years.
To the Editor:
As Early Childhood Educators we were moved to respond to Topher Sanders’ story of confronting racism as a parent of a five year old on the playground. We are acutely aware of how early young children can be “infected by racism before *they (italics our own) can spell the word.” For this reason we and many early childhood educators are committed to educating parents and children as early as Preschool. Parents and white parents in particular need to understand that young children are not colorblind. Books such as Blind Spot: Hidden Biases by Banaji and Greenwald illustrate how cultural biases are absorbed. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards provide anti-bias educational goals for young children. We believe it is critical for parents to educate themselves and feel prepared on how to talk to their children about race. Racism will continue unless all parents, not just parents of children of color, are prepared to answer tough questions and proactively raise issues of fairness and race. The next time we hear our white child say “ Only White People” parents need to be able to say, “I heard you say that and wondered what do you mean?” “Does that seem fair?” “How would you feel if someone says that to you?” This opens the door to a larger conversation about fairness in our world and empowering children to make a difference. The first message for a young child is to include and not exclude. It can’t be on families of color or the parents of the “victim” alone to ask these questions.
Jackie Condie and Maura Eden
Lower School and Preschool Division Heads at Brooklyn Friends School