Addressing Racism with Children

by John Hailes/ May 29, 2020

It’s getting difficult to count the number of times over the past few weeks that I have scrolled through social media to see pictures and videos of black Americans receiving abuse unfairly or being killed without cause. With every occurrence, the outrage across the nation is growing and the excuses are becoming more challenging to find comfort in. We are living in a time where technology is denying us the opportunity to turn a blind eye and claim ignorance. With this in mind, I am inclined to believe that if we are stumbling upon these cases, then so are our children.


If we fail to address these incidents with our children, then we instruct them with our silence that it is acceptable to kill others who embody the image of God. We begin to subtly teach them that their life is more important than their brothers. ALL Life is precious, and ALL human life is created in the image of God. We ALL sin and yet our sin does not disqualify us from being His image bearers. This is the message we must communicate to the next generation.


When we see systematic issues, it is too easy to feel insignificant and incapable of solving the problem. However, as parents and church leaders we can make a difference through shaping the next generation. Here are some ways we can begin shaping our children’s understanding…


1. Express Your Emotion

I’m thankful for many of my friends who sit their children down after each of these occurrences and share the stories with tears in their eyes. You may be horrified at the idea of “stealing” a small portion of your children’s innocence…you are privileged with the choice of doing so… our brothers and sisters of color must shatter their children’s innocence to save them. The truth is though that many children will see these stories unravel and have no outlet to process them. We must communicate with our children and allow them to see the way we process these events through showing them our emotions. This will help shape their worldview and teach them how to process their pain.


2. Expose Your Children to a Diversity of People

Nothing is more powerful than exposing our children to a diversity of people. We must find opportunities for them to make friendships with people of color. This kind of experience shatters their learned stereotypes of other races. Given the world we live in, there is little excuse for failing to expose our children to a diversity of people. It’s beneficial and important for them to understand what it feels like to be the minority in the room. Consider vacationing in a foreign country, taking your children to a large city, teaching them about significant figures in black history or visiting a church that has a totally different ethnic make up than your own church. This is not merely about racism, but it is about humanizing their perspective and helping them realize that what is perfectly normal for them, is not necessarily the experience of others.


3. Explain with Scripture

It is vital that we help our children build their worldview from the truth of scripture. When we teach children the creation narrative, we elevate their understanding of the sanctity of ALL human life. When we talk about how Jesus engages the Samaritan woman at the well, we can help children understand that Jesus despised racism. When we teach the foundation of missions through the great commission, we can emphasize that we must have compassion for ALL people groups and nations who are yet to hear the good news. Finally, when we teach about finishing the race before us and we read scriptures about eternity with Jesus, we remind our children that people from all nations are God’s children. This worldview may easily become distorted by cultural experiences if we aren’t careful to teach our children to build from the truth of God’s word.


We may not be able to change the outcomes of past occurrences, but their stories can be shared so that the next generation does not follow in our shameful footsteps. What are you willing to do to prepare and equip the next generation to stop this happening?