Tyrone Howard: Explaining Racism to Young Children

Scholar of race discusses how families and schools should address explaining racial violence and injustice.

Tyrone Howard, UCLA professor of education and director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, was interviewed recently by ABC7 Eyewitness News on how to talk to children about racial unrest.

Professor Howard, who also directs the UCLA Pritzker Center for the Strengthening of Children and Families, noted that there is little progress in fighting racism due to the general fear and inability of having “hard conversations about the value of Black lives in our country.

“We’re talking about an ideology problem, the way in which some people still see Black people as not equals, the way in which some people still see Black people as a threat,” he said in the interview. “That’s the hard part – how do we change ideologies and how do we get … just as many white people in our country to be just as upset, just as outraged, just as angry about the loss of Black lives, as many Black people are.”

Howard said that while conversations about race and inequality are not new for Black parents and their children, all parents need to talk honestly to their children about race.

“This is the thing that Black people have been doing with their children for a long time,” said Professor Howard, who founded the directs the Black Male Institute at UCLA. “We talk to our sons and our daughters about how to be safe, how to stay alive, what to do, what not to do. So I think it’s time for white Americans to engage in their conversations with their children about the fact that we have an ugly history in this country around race.

“We can’t sugarcoat it. We have to really try to help young people understand that we treat people differently for no other reason than the color of their skin, and that’s wrong. We want a fair, equal and open society. So, we have to talk to kids in an age-appropriate manner but we have to also be straightforward and we cannot dilute the facts because they’re ugly. But if they’re ugly for us to talk to children about, think about how it feels for young Black children to have to live it every single day.”

Howard said that teachers and schools can also be key in helping children through this period of racial unrest and that, “our young people are far more willing to talk about these issues than we think.”

“Lots of our young children right now are feeling scared. They’re angry, they feel lots of anxiety,” said Professor Howard. “Talk to children. Talk about what they’re thinking, what they’re seeing, what they’re feeling. Teachers can oftentimes be a source of comfort, can be a source of healing, can help them make sense of what a really confusing time it is right now.”

This summer, Howard participated in UCLA Connections conversations with Nicole Green, Ph.D., executive director of UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services. Visit these links for their previous events on “Processing racial trauma” and “Where do we go from here? Creating an anti-racist climate of support.”

To see Professor Howard on Eyewitness News, visit this link.

Courtesy of UCLA