Talking About Race


July 24, 2008 by multiracialsky

Cross-posted from resources for Talking About Race at

The key to talking with your child—or anyone—about race is the same key to discussing any complex subject: openness. Start an open dialog with your child about race early in their life. Make it a comfortable subject of conversation—for you, and for your child.

WORDS: Find descriptive words you are comfortable using. Check out the MultiracialSky Glossary for expanded definitions of 60 race-related terms, including 30 heritage-affirming words used today to describe people with a variety of racial and ethnic heritages.

COLORS: Start with words describing color such as brown or tan, or the colors of foods. The Colors of Us [below] has wonderful descriptive color words.

IDENTIFIERS: Teach your children words they can use to identify themselves, and terms people with other heritages use to identify themselves. (Examples: multiracial, Amerasian, Latina.)

RACE AND ETHNICITY: Talk with your child about names for different racial and ethnic heritages. The descriptions and words you use may evolve and change over time, or as the socially predominant terms evolve. (Examples: African American, Black American, Native American, European American, Asian American, Mexican, White, Black, Cuban, Irish)

HUMAN RACE: When talking about race in scientific terms, the fact remains that there is only one human race. This is a fact and statement we should equip our children with. However, especially as parents, we must also recognize that the societal construct of different and distinct races affects everyone.


The Colors of Us
Written and Illustrated by Karen Katz

The perfect book to begin the conversation with your child about skin color. Uses positive language to discuss the limitless variety of tones of the color brown.

Purchase from Amazon

Skin Again
Written by bell hooks, Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Poetic words accompanied by beautiful paintings. This book conveys a strong message that you cannot know who someone is simply by looking at them.

Purchase from Amazon

All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color
Written by Katie Kissinger, Photographs by Wernher Krutein

Simply explained scientific history of where and how humans get their skin color. In English and Spanish. NOTE: Multiracial families are presented as atypical following these two sentences: “Usually people with light skin have children with light skin. People with dark skin usually have children with dark skin.”

Purchase from Amazon

All the Colors of the Earth
Written and Illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka

Flowing text paired with paintings of children of all skin tones. Multiracial children and interracial couples shown.

Purchase from Amazon

Shades of Black
Written by Sandra L. Pinkney, Photographs by Myles Pinkney

Photographs and positive language show the variety of skin color, eye color, and hair texture present in children with Black American heritage.

Purchase from Amazon

Amazing Grace
Written and Illustrated by Mary Hoffman

Clearly narrated story of an imaginative girl who overcomes classmates’ limitations of her because of her skin color and gender.

Purchase from Amazon

BOOK RESOURCES FOR ADULTS–For thinking and talking about race and racism

A People’s History of the United States
By Howard Zinn

The portion of American History missing from traditional textbooks. The U.S. history of women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants of all nationalities, the working class and the poor.

Purchase from Amazon

Everyday Acts Against Racism
Edited by Maureen Reddy

A collection of essays by parents (mostly mothers) raising children of color. Some of the authors are multiracial.

Purchase from Amazon

Some of My Best Friends
Edited by Emily Bernard

Deep, well-crafted essays about interracial friendships by 16 writers.

Purchase from Amazon

White Like Me
By Time Wise
White privilege and race in the United States–past and present–artfully explained and deconstructed by a White man from the South. This book is both life-changing and humorous.

Purchase from Amazon


8 thoughts on “Talking About Race

  1. browngirl says:

    you have a lovely blog. i hope you’re not done sharing…

  2. Lauren says:

    Thank you for posting this. I recently had an “incident” with friends of our family that made me very uncomfortable and left me uncertain as to how to respond to a teenager regarding what I perceive as racist behavior. This post helps me find the resources that might help.

  3. Amy says:

    I hope to find a new post soon! Love the book recommendations.

  4. Lori says:


    Where are you? We miss you!

  5. Kimora, Kariah, and Kajanae's Mommy says:

    Where’s the Sky family? 😦

  6. A says:

    With MKL Day and Obama’s inauguration approaching, I’m wondering how I can best talk about African American history with my almost 6 year old twins. We live in NYC, and they go to a school with a fair number of bi-racial kids, and I am half (South Asian) Indian. Right now, they don’t see race at all – especially not in terms of black and white. Rather, they see skin color as a spectrum of tan to brown to dark brown. And, wonderfully, they think that is is perfectly normal that our next president is a black man. So, I’d like to teach them the significance of MLK and Obama’s presidency without changing what I see as their very positive view of the spectrum of humanity. Any advice would be welcome!

  7. Nancy says:

    Hi —

    I just found your blog through another adoptive mom (our adopted children are from India). Thanks from the book recommendations, and the great older posts. We hear so many odd comments about our daughter, and we’re adopting again. I’m grateful that our older kids are boys — we hear the “beautiful” comments so much, and I’m grateful our sons are oblivious and don’t feel ignored or slighted.

    Hope to see more from you!

  8. Thanks for those tips, it is hard to discuss about such a topic with kids!

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