Child, Parenting

Talking to children about racism

Talking to children about racism

Talking about racism is a crucial way to get rid of it – and it can start as early as childhood.

Because children have a natural sense of justice, it is appropriate and important to speak to them about discrimination in an age-appropriate way. You can find out here how you can do this without overtaxing your child, as well as a lot of helpful information on the subject. 


First of all, we clarify two important terms that will help you when you find out about racism.

The term BIPoC, which comes from English, is a self-designation by or for people who experience racism. The abbreviation stands for Black (Black People), Indigenous and People of Colour. Self-designation has emancipatory relevance for BIPoC, since after centuries of oppression, it is not the oppressor who characterizes it, but rather the self-characterization.

Contrary to this, being white does not mean the real skin color of a person, but the existence of privileges in the white majority society.

racism in our society

The apartheid system in South Africa, racial segregation in the USA and National Socialism in Germany are taught at school, mostly in higher grades. These systems, which date back less than a hundred years, were based on racist ideologies with which discriminatory and inhuman laws were founded. 

But racism does not stop in history.

Although Article 3 of our Basic Law prohibits “inequality based on various criteria such as origin, faith, gender, etc.”, BIPoC encounter discrimination and disadvantage in institutions or in everyday life.

In a study by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency , more than two-thirds of all respondents with a migration background stated that they were disadvantaged when looking for an apartment. Non-white people also encounter racism in other areas, such as the labor market or public institutions.

What can I do to counteract prejudice?

Prejudices and racist ideas are not innate, they are learned. But they can also be unlearned. There are a number of things you can do to convey solidarity with those affected and to counteract prejudice. We present you with a few tips that you can implement directly.

Talk openly about experiences

It is important that everyday racism, which even children can be confronted with, is made visible. Whether your child or your child’s friends have experienced racism, teach your child that talking about it is the right thing to do. Often a child cannot judge where racism begins and where it ends, for example when jokes are made at the expense of others .

Those affected should never be pressured to report racist hostilities or similar, but a safe framework should be created in which people who have experienced racism are listened to and taken seriously.


Age-appropriate anti-racist education is suitable for every child. Some schools have programs on this topic, but parents can also do a lot for further education. 

First of all, it is advisable to inform yourself about racism and the historical background. You can watch age-appropriate videos together with children; the information film on racism from the Federal Agency for Civic Education is recommended.

Tiffany Jewell’s book The Anti-Racism Book discusses racism, its history and what to do about it. The book is particularly suitable for (school) children due to the illustrative and appealing illustrations and the age-appropriate language. Both children who have already experienced racism and children who are not affected by racism themselves can use this book to learn.

For older people, we recommend reading “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. In the book and the film of the same name, the subject of police violence in the USA is made visible and told using a fictional story that can be seen as representative of real circumstances.


Answering questions

The murder of George Floyd, which was committed by a police officer, attracted a great deal of media attention last year. The video of the crime went viral and caused people around the world to show solidarity and protest against police violence and institutionalized racism.

Of course, children are also aware of such news. It is important that you answer the questions your child may ask and explain the background to such acts without overtaxing them.

For example, you can explain that it is very difficult to free people from prejudice and racist thinking. Communicate that such thinking is wrong and that helping the oppressed is important.

identity and diversity 

For children and young people who live in Germany and have a migration background, sooner or later the question of their own identity and where or who they feel they belong to often arise. It looks different for everyone, some may not ask this question at all or only for themselves, others have specific questions that they ask openly.

Talk to your child about your origins or tell them about your experiences when they ask questions.

Integration and the same values ​​and norms as a basis are important for living together in a society. However, it is just as important to continue the language or traditions of one’s own origin and not to forget them. A diverse society benefits from shared values, but also from different cultures.

Variety and diversity are a great enrichment for society and should therefore be represented in the media and in the environment. 

The power of language 

language changes. Anyone who has consciously experienced changes in language or spelling knows how difficult it is to unlearn something. It is more difficult to unlearn certain concepts or thoughts than to learn them. It is therefore important that you set a good example and make sure not to reproduce discriminatory language from the start so that your children can learn from you.

Terms such as the N-word should be taboo as it reproduces the language of the oppressor and BIPoC have had traumatic experiences with this term.

Idioms and other designations that are not meant to be racist at first glance can also be avoided. For example, most probably associate the pencil with beige color with the pencil “skin color”. This designation and association imply that light skin color is “normal” skin color and anything that deviates from it is not. Instead of Mohrenkopf you can use the word Schokokuss.

Avoiding certain terms can be unfamiliar at first, but it is important for change to take place.

Conclusion: be Ally

Ally means ally – that’s what you can be and be a role model for your child in this regard.

This means that you show solidarity with people who are affected by racism and actively inform them about racism. If you see someone being treated unfairly, stand behind that person and encourage others to do the same.

Books and information videos on the subject, which you can watch together with your child, are helpful. You can also make sure to use non-discriminatory language so that your child learns to think and act anti-racist from the start.


Leave a Reply