On Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 at 12:00pm EDT, Children and Screens held the #AskTheExperts webinar “Parenting Just Children: A How-To Conversation About Race, Social Justice Activism, and The Media.” The webinar focused on supporting parents, educators and clinicians in understanding and discussing the intersectionality of racial justice, youth online civic engagement, media violence and on-screen representation with children. An interdisciplinary panel of world-renowned experts provided guidance on how to talk with children, students, and patients about race and offered ways that families can help create a more socially just society.
Dominic A. Rollins, PhDDirector;Moderator
Valerie Adams-Bass, PhDAssistant Professor of Education
Howard C. Stevenson, PhDConstance Clayton Professor of Urban Education; Professor of Africana Studies in Human Development and Quantitative Methods; Executive Director
Jacqueline Douge, MD, MPH, FAAPPediatrician; Podcast Host; Author
Craig Watkins, PhDErnest A. Sharp Centennial Professor; Author
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Welcome and thank you for joining us today for this week’s Ask the Experts workshop. I am Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra, president and founder of Children and Screens institute of digital media and child development, and host of this popular weekly series. Children and Screens is a leading interdisciplinary convener, funder, and curator of scientific research and a public educator on the topic of digital media and child development. Almost 850 people have registered for today’s workshop that will explore the intersection of racial justice, youth online civic engagement, media violence and on-screen representation. Our esteemed panel of experts will discuss the nuances of talking to children about race and offer guidance to parents attempting to wrangle the complexities of social justice and digital media. Of course, racial injustice cannot be summarized or solved with a 90-minute webinar; however, we hope that the lived experience and advice of our panelists will inspire you to initiate these vital conversations within your family and beyond. Further we acknowledge that race representation and justice intersect with myriad topics under the purview of children and screens, and we are committed to exploring this interest and this intersectionality in future webinars, which is to say this is just the beginning of a vast conversation. Our panelists have reviewed the questions you submitted and will answer as many as possible during and after their presentations. If you have additional questions during the workshop, please type them into the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen and indicate whether or not you would like to ask your question live on camera, or if you would prefer that the moderator read your question. Please know that we may not be able to answer all of your questions but we’ll answer as many as time permits we’re recording today’s workshop and hope to upload a video onto youtube in the coming days. Tomorrow, you’ll receive a link to our youtube channel where you will find videos from our past webinars as well. It is now my great pleasure to introduce our moderator, Dr. Dominic Rollins. Dominic is the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Dalton school in New York City. In this role, he provides leadership and oversight to develop a comprehensive diversity and equity and inclusion strategy. Dominic regularly collaborates with teachers and academic leaders to institute a culturally-relevant equity pedagogy in classrooms and serves as mentor to faculty, staff, students, and parents on issues of social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. Welcome Dominic.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Thanks so much ma’am. Hello folks, and welcome to the webinar today. We’re really excited to have you. We have some esteemed folks that will share insights in their expertise, trying to ground things in practical language how to to um really offer up advice guidance for our parents. One of the things that I want to be really clear about as we sort of embark on our time together is that we are in a really historical moment, a moment and movement that we have been in time before but haven’t felt it this way – haven’t felt the pressing need for racial justice in this way. And at a time where a lot of our conversations are about race and racism. It is a time where we also need to center the voices of black folk, the voices of people of color, the voices of folks, who not only have the expertise but also the lived experiences to help us move through this moment. And so as we are here today. you will notice with great intention that our panel is all folks that are black with really great and incredible expertise that will be helpful and a value add to our time together today. The way that we will flow is that each panelist will provide some information about a five minute or so presentation and then I, along with that panelists, will engage in a light Q&A, a little bit of a conversation, maybe unpacking an idea or two from what they shared. With each of our panelists, uh we aim to have 20, 25 minutes or so left for Q&A from you all, and each of you may have submitted a question. We will try to get to as many of them as possible. With that i’m going to go ahead and introduce our first panelist. Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass is an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia where she examines the relationships of racial socialization and racial identity with the developmental processes, social and academic outcomes of black children and youth. As an applied researcher, she has conducted research with urban african-american and latin adolescents and south african youth, and facilitated training with adults and youth on college preparation, science, civic engagement, and life skills curriculum and activities. With that I’ll turn it to Dr Adams-Bass to share, and then we will engage a little bit.
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: Thanks so much Dominic, and thank you and welcome to everyone who’s joining us today for this very important panel. Um i’m excited to be here and share a little bit of my knowledge and conversation with you. Um and just thinking about contextualizing my colleagues who will be here and share with us today, uh, two elements, uh, that are relevant and important to this discussion are both racial socialization and racial identity. Those are two important elements of identity processes for all children but specifically for children of black descent who are black of the diaspora. And so, in layman’s terms thinking about racial socialization, we want to think of it as a process that parents employ for preparing their children, particularly black children, with managing and navigating a world where people are probably going to respond to them, highly likely to respond to them, because of the color of their skin. It includes modeling behaviors. It includes conversations. And sometimes in some cases what you may see today includes some level of role playing – what do you do when someone responds to you based on how you look, your ethnic and racial identity, more than who you are as a whole person. Children begin to receive racial socializations immediately at home, in the home environment, and then the second environment that we know it occurs in quite frequently is the school environment. That’s when children traditionally spend most of their time outside of the home. So black parents, particularly in the United States, have, are tasked with figuring out how do you preserve their identity and provide opportunities for your children to thrive, knowing that it’s likely people are going to respond to them because of the color of their skin. And, black children, whether they’re adolescents or early childhood preschoolers, come in all colors around shades of brown, very yellow to very dark. But in all cases there’s that response – so what do we do or what do you do as a parent to help your child respond and prepare to that. There are different forms of racial socialization. Some of them are proactive and sort of acknowledging this is going to happen with your children. And then there are other forms where we take a wait-and-see approach. I would also add that while this panel is focused on black children and families that all parents engage in racial socialization, and the research of others indicates that for white parents, oftentimes, it’s more of a colorblind approach to racial socialization. So when those racial encounters occur, children and and their parents often don’t know how to respond to racialized images that we see in the media, they don’t know how to respond to racialized encounters that happen in the classroom or sometimes in social spaces, and that’s the perspective can contribute to what we consider, uh, microaggressions right so Dr. Sue has done a lot of work on that, Derald Wing Sue, on microaggressions and what that looks like. And there certainly is a relationship between a colorblind approach to racial socialization and microaggressions that are expressed against or towards black children, families, and youth. So I do want to share that, and then sharing that I also want us to think about media images right now and, as Dominic mentioned, we are living in a time where we have been sheltering in place. We are experiencing a humanitarian crisis. This pandemic, which for months, had has had us all at home so our gaze if you will has been connected to media both fictional and non-fictional media. Social media has played a relevant part in how we are gaining and resourcing our information, particularly for young people. Those of us, who are more mature, are likely to watch the evening news or listen to a news station or broadcast. But children, particularly adolescents. are more likely to go to their twitter feed to see what people are talking about on Tik-tok to share with one another, not so much on facebook, but in these other social spaces to form groups and groupme to talk about what’s happening and maybe take snatches of media from what we consider mainstream media. So what we need to know and what we need to think about is this definition of we need to think about a definition of racial, of media socialization, should i say. When we’re thinking about media as a socializing agent – media certainly is a socializing agent that plays a part in how young people come to understand who they are and how people respond to them. So, we want to be able to ensure that we are helping them to digest and understand the media as it comes to them. So, my definition – the definition that I use in thinking about media socialization – is really, we’re thinking about racial socialization. We’re also thinking about media socialization. So, what we’re thinking about in this case, is the exposure to mass communication, whether it’s television, radio, internet, newspapers – a dying breed, if you will. E-zines, magazines like Teen Vogue, really teach accepted behavior. They have a direct influence, in spite of what we might perceive or believe, and they really facilitate and play – and come in – and, uh, they parallel or they complement, and sometimes don’t, the racial socialization messages that adolescents and children are receiving as well as help them to understand or to question their own racial identity. So, we want to think about media as a socializing agent, and that children are learning and responding to what they see on television. So, as parents, part of our responsibility is to equip them with messages that help them to digest, as well as to interpret media images, particularly if they are racialized. If they are, uh, really promulgating stereotypes about black people, whether black children or adults, as well as if we’re seeing repeated images of violence of black people, how do we provide them with racial socialization messages that allow them to cope, to digest, and also to preserve their humanity? Because black children are children, whether they’re teenagers or toddlers, they’re children. And we want to ensure that we too are thinking about the media that they’re being exposed to, and the messages we provide them, as their primary socializing agent. So, that they’re able to filter those messages in a way that’s supportive and protective of their own identities.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Dr. Adams-Bass, thank you. As we think about this, as I’m listening, I have to imagine that there are some parents, families, who are saying, ‘I’ve never really thought about curating or doing differently sort of with the messages that my child is receiving, right.’ That world of theirs is like their own little world, whether it’s the TV or the media. What would you say is a first step, like, if for a moment, we believe that this information as media socialization is new to some families? What’s a first step?”
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: Sure. I think that’s a great question, Dominic. The first step is to watch the media that your children are watching and, when they’re young, to curate that media that you’re exposing your children to. So, we’re talking about visual media, televised motion media, but we also want to think about the books that we bring into our house, the images that adorn our walls. We want to think about all of those spaces where children are going to see with their eyes and make sure that there are diverse representations. I think oftentimes for parents, we model what we’ve experienced, and if we have grown up in a household or lived in the community where contributions of black people have not been valued, then we don’t really think about ensuring that the books, the dolls, the pictures, the posters, the scientists that we share, the museums that we take our children to, are inclusive of black people and black culture. So, the first step is taking, I would say, a census of your home. What is in your home? What’s on the bookshelves of your children? That, to me, is a first step in expanding the conversation and providing a normalcy to alternative images that are more positive and inclusive of black people and black culture.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: I appreciate that so much, and I think it takes something that is often taken for granted, brings it out of the background and puts it into the foreground. Not a lot of folks are often thinking about that, and I’m wondering as we move here in a moment, if you could speak on what does that mean across different races and ethnicities? I imagine that possibly black families have an attunement to this because of living in a world where the media representation doesn’t favor them. But, if I’m not black, if I’m a white person, if I’m a person of a different race or ethnicity, am I thinking about it in the same way?
[Dr. Adams-Bass]: Um, probably not, and I would say a couple of things. So, one of the things that I would say is that the research sort of supports, both my research as well as the research of others and some who are on this panel, suggest that black families and children tend to watch television for ‘entertainment’ purposes, whereas non-black families tend to watch television for news, for information, to learn that socialization process. So, if you have limited actual lived experience encounters with black people or black children, only one or two, maybe three or four of them live in your community, the probability that you’re going to understand the cultural distinctions and differences is low. But one of your responsibilities is when you’re combing through the bookshelves not to just purchase ‘Jack and Jill,’ right, but to purchase, um Jack and Jil early readers, I’m being facetious but there are books, even if we think about Charlie Brown, you know, having a character in Charlie Brown that’s black. So, you know, making sure that those books, those stories that you bring home um include characters that are not all white. So you have to make an effort to do that. Why it is normalized and idealized, and in some communities where it’s relatively racially homogenous, it is an afterthought to think about being inclusive. So as parents, your role is to look for those books, look for those storylines that are more inclusive, including storylines and movies that are for an older or mature audience. Then to watch with your children and have discussions with them about it. When you’re going to the museums, if you are going to mainstream museums, are you also paying attention to the art by non-white artists? Are you having conversations about the historical contributions, not just the things that are absent from the history book but being added to in those conversations, added to what’s happening in your home. So those things are relevant and important – are you following the conversations that young people are having in social media spaces so you can enter that conversation? Um, so knowing the alternative perspective and points of view is relevant for having that discussion with your child when they come home and say, you know, “I saw students in my school wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirt. What’s that all about?” Right? So understanding that legacy, how that’s related, and if you’ve already been doing some research and expanding your world beyond what’s normal for you, then it’s an easier conversation. If you haven’t been doing that work already, now is the time to dig into that history – I wouldn’t necessarily say history, but it’s because so much of the history is missing, unfortunately – but going to the Smithsonian African-American history museum – there are local museums in almost every major state. And right now virtually, lots of museums are being inclusive of that culture. So you want to make sure that you are doing that. You can go online. So you have to do some learning yourself if you haven’t been doing this work.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: well part of that learning is disrupting the dominant narrative and the norm and sort of what we, um, what we’ve inherited.
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: And lots of my students – I teach a class on media representations and black adolescent identities, and lots of my students love This is Us, which is this multi-racial story which includes a black main character, right? So what is it like to live in a multi-racial, biracial family? What’s his experience like compared to his white parents and his white brothers and sisters? And so the complexities of identity in America are really explored in that television show. That’s a space. That right there is a space to try to start to grapple with the reality that many black families and black people experience in this country and in this context. So, again, if you are not sure where to go for the non-fictive work, there are few spaces right now in media where you can go for the fictional work to say, ‘Wow, there’s something… This seems like this might be more realistic than the comedic representations of Black people. Perhaps, I need to learn a little bit more’.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: I’m going to move us, thank you. To be continued in our Q&A. I appreciate it. All right, next, we will hear from Dr. Howard Stevenson who is the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education and Professor of Africana Studies and Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. An esteemed professor, he’s also the Executive Director of the Racial Empowerment Collective at Penn, designed to promote racial literacy in education, health, community, and justice institutions. With that, we’ll hear from Dr. Howard Stevenson.
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: Thank you, Dominic. I’m going to share my screen, and I’m assuming you all can see this. I just want to talk for a very brief mom – set of minutes around why preparing children for racism can reduce racial stress and trauma. I want to start with a proverb that we use in our work, ‘The lion’s story will never be known as long as the hunter is the one to tell it.’ Um, I grew up, and my family, in awe of my mother who my brother, sister, and I also, in awe, would watch her mow down, disrespecting white people in the supermarket when they were not treating us right. And my mother gave us many talks. We could argue about how to navigate the world around race, but the one she gave us before going into the supermarket sounded something like this: ‘Don’t ask for nothing. Don’t touch nothing. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?’ She would walk away, and she’d come back. We knew she was coming back because she wasn’t finished. She would say, ‘I don’t care how many other kids are climbing the walls in that supermarket. They’re not my children. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?’ And we would all say in three-part harmony, ‘Yes, Mom.’ When we think about that, the talk that so many people think about, which is wonderfully what Dr. Adams-Bass was just describing, is racial socialization. For us, that talk meant a lot because she gave it to us over and over and over again. We saw our mother as our racial superhero because of how she navigated these public thoroughfares back and forth. Our father was sort of like a spiritual superhero, but our mother was a racial superhero. Three lessons we got from her interactions, watching her, and practicing ourselves on how to manage racial moments. One of those lessons was that predominantly white spaces could be war zones. That is, they could be times in which we all might find ourselves needing to defend, protect, from particular types of harm. The second lesson was it’s okay to resist and fight back that dehumanization. The third lesson was that racism is not our problem, but their problem. Now, I can tell you as much as we were on watching my mother do that work, we were also stressed because we were worried that something might happen to her through retaliation or whatever. So it was both powerful and stressful. One of the ways that I think about the way that racism has affected our society is that we know, more than ever, that racial hate is increasing around the country and it has been doing so for a very long time. And particularly in places where children find themselves spending most of their time in schools. Educators have reported being very unprepared for these, these sets of moments. The stress that comes from racial experiences, we know a lot more now, through Shelley Harrell’s definition out of Pepperdine is that when we’re overtaxed, the basic definition of racial stress, is being threatened by racial moments that could come out of anywhere. In many respects, racial trauma is sort of prolonged or intense exposure to that. In some of our research, we’ve also noticed that parenting stress, the stress of being a parent, is very different than the stress of being a parent of Black and brown children where you’re worried daily that something might happen to them because of the color of their skin or how people will respond to that or overreact to it. We also know research suggests that racial stress and trauma are linked to a host of particular issues that face children every day: hostile relationships with professionals, dehumanizing climates where you just feel like, ‘Man, I don’t belong here.’ What’s amazing in the great work by William Darity and Mullen in the recent book on ‘From Here to Equality’ on reparations, is this incredible data to support the notion that this racism has affected us across generations and generations in health, wealth, housing, and education outcomes. Finally, one argument for why talking to our children about race is that, what if you knew that our children’s inability to navigate the racial world is also linked to poor cardiovascular health, inflammation, sleep quality, and even breathing? And I say to parents, would you be interested in having that conversation if you knew that was going to be one of the outcomes you could change? So, as Dr. Adams-Bass has done so well in describing what racial socialization is. The ‘how’ is about how our children can watch us all the time, being both verbal and nonverbal. Sometimes the most powerful communication we give about race is what we don’t say. And in many respects, in addition to social media, parents, teachers, classmates, schools can be the ‘who’ that deliver it.
But the ‘why’ is kind of the question that I’d like to focus on. Four things come to mind: to affirm the humanity of our children, to protect them from harm, to redirect any self-destructive thinking or internalizing of those negative stereotypes, and finally, to connect them to thriving relationships. The reality is legal approaches, as much as they are important in our society, will not heal the daily racial trauma that our children and we are exposed to. And one of the questions is, can talking to children about race actually help us heal racial stress and trauma? And I believe that it can. If you look at some of the research on racial socialization, this is a lot of stuff. The benefits have shown that the more we talk about race to kids, we see benefits around preschoolers in cognitive-behavioral competence. Others have found academic achievement, racial identity which has been mentioned already, and a greater appreciation of our own history and culture. But in some of the intervention’s work, we also know it can be very important in helping young people manage anxiety, anger, and depression management, as well as reducing racial stress during racial conflicts. So the question is, why is it so protective? What we’ve learned is in talking to children about race, children pretty much respond to these racial encounters as if they’re less stressful. Because, ‘What, I’ve been prepared for this. I’ve seen this before. This is not the first time.’ And overtime, we build confidence in not avoiding those moments but engaging them. In many respects, what we’re working on now, beyond racial socialization, is racial literacy. Racial socialization is about preparation. Racial literacy is about boot camp. It’s like going Uber preparation, where the ability to read, recast, and resolve racially stressful encounters is the focus. And reading, recasting, resolving racial literacy skills is about how much we notice about our bodies and emotions during those moments, how well we interpret those moments accurately. Do we see the racial elephants in the room? Are we able to reduce our stress so we can think straight through recasting? And to what degree we’re able to walk away, making healthy decisions that are not an over or underreaction to the moment and that match our social justice values. And the last thing I’ll say, we use a mindfulness approach to help young people and parents navigate these moments by calculating what feelings am I having and how intense those feelings are in the racial moment. Locating where in my body, do I feel those things, because our body keeps the score of that stress and trauma. Then communicate, which is how much am I saying to myself through my self-talk and through memories during the moment that can give me clues as to what’s really going on with breathing slowly, four counts in, and exhaling out six counts even slower, giving me the chance to bring oxygen to my brain so I can see and make decisions more clearly. And I will say, yes, talking to children about race, I believe, can help us navigate the politics of racial stress and trauma. But it starts with our own story. Thank you.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Shock for Dr. Stevenson, I appreciate it. And, you drew me into a memory that I have of growing up where my mother told me I had to work twice as hard as the white man sitting next to me. And I don’t know that my mother had the language of racial stress, but she had the lived experience of racism to know that she needed to prepare me, and prepare my work ethic in the world as I encountered whiteness, particularly as someone growing up in Baltimore. I bring that story in to ask you just one question for this segment, which is how important is the language or terminology for parents, particularly parents of color, particularly Black parents, in moving through this with a kid? I think there’s an intuition for this, and I can also imagine Black families tuning in right now saying, ‘That’s a lot.’ And not necessarily how I think about it, though I understand the value of the conversation. So, how important is that, is that language, and some of it’s evolving in the research currently?
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: Yes, I think we have, as researchers, focused a lot on what exactly parents do say. But I think in talking to your child, if you can remember that children are picking up also on your nonverbal movements, you’re also communicating that. And one thing I would say to parents is, are you aware of what you’re communicating no matter what language you use, right? Some of us will try to be hopeful with our children, and children know they’re scared of something. And I think, in some respects, talking about what’s going on with you, ‘Mommy and Daddy is scared that I, you know, and sad that I even have to tell you that you have to work twice as hard to be equal to everyone else.’ And then, children are getting the full picture of what you’re absolutely saying. You are afraid for them. You’re not sure what the world’s going to do, but you’re giving them something that will make them feel as if, pop, you know, all things are possible. And I would say, the language is important but it’s secondary to the actual emotional communication that children get from us.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: I think that is spot on. And I appreciate, I think the essence is, tell your kids why. Why would I be unpacking this with you? Why would I be naming this? And sometimes this falls in this tense place of wanting to protect folks from – but we know that we can’t protect folks of color and black folks from the racism that is in the world, like you will sort of experiencing it whether it is observing it or it being direct. So if I can tell you why I am responding it in the way and why I need you to respond in that particular way. I’m doing a little more for you there.
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: Yes. Absolutely.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Okay. I’m going to move to our next panelist. Thank you. Thank you. Next up we will hear from Dr. Jacqueline Douge who’s a pediatrician, writer and speaker. She’s also the host and creator of the podcast “What is black” and the author of a middle-grade novel “learning to love all of me”. Dr. Douge, please take it away.
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: Thank you so much dominic, so I’m going to share my screen as well. Hello everybody, and it’s a pleasure to be here with you to talk about this important topic. So, I’m going to talk about how to talk to children about race and violence in the news. Once I get my technical skills, alright, so I’ll go back to the first slide. As Dominic mentioned, I’m the co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on racism and its impact on children in health. As both our prior panelists have discussed, racism has health consequences. My colleague who’s the lead author of the policy statement, Dr. Maria Trent, is quoted as saying ‘Racism is a socially transmitted disease. It’s taught and it’s passed down.’ So, my role as a pediatrician is really to help parents navigate why it’s important to have these conversations about race because it is a matter of our health, well-being, and our social and emotional well-being. I want to put it in the context of development. So children learn about racial bias very early on. As early as six months and probably as young as three months old, they can notice race-based differences. They don’t ascribe negative values to that. They just know there’s differences. By the time they’re two to four, children can start to internalize those racial biases. By age five, children of color can start to internalize those existing stereotypes of their racial groups. By age 12, many children have fixed ideas about race and bias associated with race. So there are opportunities here for parents to intervene early to prevent some of the health outcomes and the social outcomes of racism. So, I want to talk a little bit about strategies to help children deal with racial bias. As discussed earlier, it is important to talk to children and acknowledge that racial biases and differences exist. Talking about race is not racist. Alright. Also, we want to make sure that we confront our own biases. We want to know where we stand before we talk to our children, so we need to check our perceptions and thoughts about other people, so that we can model for them the behavior that we want them to see. Then, we also want to encourage our children to stand up and stand against racial stereotypes and racial bias. I also put this in the context of anti-bullying discussions. So when we talk about wanting our kids to be kind and compassionate, we want them to be kind and compassionate to everyone, regardless of their race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, all shapes and forms of identity. But it starts early, and what we’re teaching them now really does make an impact on how we address racism. So, how can parents confront their racial bias? You want to be a role model by acknowledging your thoughts and correcting your thoughts and ideas. I also suggest having a wide, culturally diverse social network, social network. Many of us do live in homogenous communities and may not have the opportunity to see other people. So as Dr. Bass mentioned, there are wonderful opportunities to do this – going to museums, through books, through theater, through multiple forms of media. We also want to travel and expose our children to other communities and also get involved in our places of worship, politics, our children’s schools, so that we can advocate for fair treatment for all. So, tips for talking about racial differences. Again, I want to reiterate that talking about race is not racist. It’s okay and important. We know from what, especially with Dr. Bass was saying, colorblind methodologies or education does not work, and it has not worked since, hence we still have the problem of racism. So how we talk to kids is going to differ based on their ages. For preschoolers, I think it’s important again that we, with, when when kids see difference that we acknowledge it, and we also talk to them about, um you know, if we bring up things like reaffirming that “yes there is difference but isn’t aren’t they beautiful”. You know, even though they are different what are the similarities so that we can create, um an understanding that we have a shared humanity. For gradeschoolers, those conversations will get a little more in depth, and you can talk more specifically about racial biases and media and books and then for teens and tweens. And then for tweens and teens – Again, those conversations definitely get more complex. Having been a parent of two teenagers, adolescents, they have gotten more complex. But this is also a great time to encourage, um, activism, right. So our kids don’t feel helpless. There is something we can do about it. And I put the slide in just to reiterate that our kids are hearing about racism everywhere, from protests to social media to television shows that are meant to educate through different forms of media. So, our kids are hearing about it, even though we may not be aware that they are or acknowledge that they are. So, how can we help children understand what’s going on in the media regarding race, racism, and violence? We want to check in with our children. How are they taking in things? Asking them questions so, ‘How are you feeling about this? What are you watching?’ And just engaging questions and even giving them space for them to come and talk with you, so that you don’t have to force the conversation. Sometimes, things you find out are in those quiet moments when you’re in the car with them. You want to watch for changes in your child’s behavior. They may become, you know, we want to look for signs of stress responses, anxiety, depression. Or, are they becoming more withdrawn? Are they acting out? Just differences, as a parent, you’re going to notice if your child is different. Especially being home quarantined, you’re getting to know your children much more. Also, this is very important. We want to limit what our children see in the media. It’s important that they know about it, but it doesn’t have to be all day, all the time, because even as a parent, this is stressful information. Right. So we want to also spend time together, be aware of your own emotions. Because again, as a parent, even as a pediatrician watching the constant protests, the videos, I’m stressed out. I’ve had insomnia. So I need to check in with myself as a parent, as well as my kids, because my kids are also going to react to my emotional flows. And also, despite all the negativity, there is positivity. This can be used as a teachable moment. The protests, also putting things in a historical context for kids that we have overcome. There’s a history of social civic engagement, non-violent protests that have led to change, and it’s been led by, and it’s not only people of color who’ve led this change. There are other communities as well. So we’re in this together. And then also, resources are very helpful if you really don’t know what to do or where to go. In the next slide, I’m going to share a few resources. So here are just a few, and the slides will be available. There are a few articles from healthychildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, resources from Common Sense Media on finding books with diverse characters, finding apps and games with diverse characters, from tolerance.org, a parent’s guide to preventing and responding to prejudice, and also some additional resources from Embrace Race about additional books to help support conversations of race, racism, and resistance. So, in summary, talking about race isn’t racist. Children learn about racial differences and biases very early, and we have an opportunity to teach our kids because our children of almost every age are hearing and watching what is happening in our nation. Parents, as children’s first teachers, can help their children deal with racial differences and racism. And then just a plug, as Dominic said, my new middle-grade book ‘Learning to Love All of Me’. So thank you very much, I look forward to the Q&A.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Awesome, thank you so much. Before we move to our last panelist, I was struck that your comments address all parents, and I imagine that parents are sort of receiving that information a little differently depending on their race and probably depending on their other social identities. I want to ask, what would you say specifically to white folk, to white parents, what they can do. Because I think some of the onus regarding teaching about racial bias needs to be shouldered by white folk differently than people of color. And sometimes, I think white folk know that and may want to hear. So I’m curious, I might be projecting a little bit from my own vantage point, but I’m curious on what might you say specifically that white parents would be doing, or if you were to go deeper? Yeah.
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: That’s a good question. So I think, in terms of going deeper, I think one, acknowledging, right? Are you at the table with this discussion? Right, so understanding, ‘Do you get Black Lives Matter? Do you understand why this movement is occurring?’ So, kind of again, there’s that check-in. And if you’re on board and you’re at the point where, ‘Well, I just don’t know what to do,’ that’s the first step. I think the first step is the buy-in. You have to understand why this movement is important, why this movement needs to evolve and needs to be worked on, and solved systematically, right. And also understanding that when we talk about racism, it’s not just an individual, ‘you’re racist, I’m racist’, right, pointing out fingers. It’s really a system, a system that is political, educational, criminal justice system. So I think first, you have to be at the table and be willing to acknowledge that yes, there’s a problem and willing to try to do the work to figure out how to solve that problem. Because I think really, as parents, we have to do some homework and we have to do the work and be open for our kids to lead the conversation. Because for many of us that are not there yet, our children are very much aware and very much wanting to have us do something about it. So sometimes, you may have to take a step back and learn from your kids because, I like it also to talk about car seats or smoking. A lot of times, our kids are the ones that tell us, ‘Mom, Dad, you need to put your seatbelt on,’ right? ‘You need to stop smoking.’ So in this way, I think so. Hopefully, that’s helpful. I think we have to acknowledge it.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: And I think one of the things you draw out is a level of work that parents have to do, and specifically, white parents have to do that you may not have thought that you needed to do. And that’s bringing awareness and knowledge to the issues so that you can better inform your own kids, be more mindful of how they’re engaging, and speak with authority about some of these issues, which not everybody may have thought that they needed to do. Yeah, okay. Well, I’m excited for a little bit more in the Q&A. But before we can get to the full Q&A, we gotta hear from Dr. Craig Watkins. So, Dr. Craig Watkins is the incoming Ernest Sharp Centennial Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. An internationally recognized expert in media, Watkins is the author of five books exploring young people’s engagement with media and technology. His two most recent books, ‘The Digital Edge’ and ‘Don’t Knock the Hustle’, result from his work with the Connected Learning Research Network, a research collaborative funded by the MacArthur Foundation. With that, Dr. Watkins, take it away.
[Dr. Craig Watkins]: hank you, Dominic. And thank you to the prior panelists for your great observations and insights. I’m going to share my screen with you, so let me pull up the slides. Okay, so, um, what we’ve heard to this point, and I agree with everything that’s been noted here. In particular, I found it really compelling, the points made about what was referred to as ‘media socialization’. That is, the extent to which media becomes a resource that socializes, that trains and educates, or miseducates, how the public oftentimes perceives and understands this racial justice conversation that our nation, and indeed the world, finds itself having today as a result of very recent circumstances. What I thought I would do today is focus my comments primarily around children, pre-teens, and teens, and their relationship to the most dominant force of media in their lives, and that is social media, and the role that social media is playing in terms of shaping our current conversation around racial justice. One of the things that we have come to understand in the research literature, and parents, and likely teachers and educators, you know, you don’t need social scientists or other researchers to tell you this, is that most children, pre-teens, and teens are getting their news and information almost exclusively from social media platforms. So this is a fundamental sort of generational shift from how we thought about the ways in which news and information circulate, particularly as it relates to social issues, public affairs related kinds of issues. Historically, newspapers, television, cable, broadcast news being the primary disseminators, the primary sort of shapers of what we might call this ‘agenda setting function’ that kind of sets the tone for what we understand, pay attention to, and discuss in our homes and elsewhere. Social media is really driving that agenda now. Social media is, in many ways, shaping that conversation, and so it’s certainly shaping the ways in which young people are being exposed to different ideas, perspectives as it relates to racial justice. So this is… what I wanted to share with you is just a couple of interesting findings from Common Sense Media. This report can be found on their website. It basically reiterates what I’ve referred to here, what I’ve noted and what other panelists have noted as well. 77% of teens get their news and information headlines from social media. Another 28% say that actually their preferred news source is a personality, influencer, or celebrity on social media, for example, via YouTube. I’ll talk here in a moment about the emergence of influencers, particularly social media-driven influencers, and what that means for your children and the kinds of things that they’re being exposed to in terms of conversations around race and racial justice. The top two platforms, YouTube and Instagram, are where kids are getting their news and information from. Again, this is a fundamental shift in terms of the channels, the platforms, and news and information sources that children, pre-teens, and teens are now accessing to sort of engage issues around race and to engage issues around social justice for example. In here, um I thought that this is particularly interesting as well. When Common Sense asks them about the most commonly mentioned personalities that they trust, here are some of the top leading contenders that emerge in their study. PewDiePie, for those of you who don’t know, is a popular YouTuber. Trevor Noah’s a late-night television host. Donald Trump and Beyonce speak for themselves. So there are a lot of implications in terms of young people’s sort of deep investment in social media and the way in which social media has become implicated in virtually every aspect of their lives, including the kinds of conversations that they’re having around race and social justice, including how they’re beginning to consume information related to race and social justice. So just a couple of pros, you could argue, is that as a result of the channels that they’re connected to, the platforms that they use, the devices that they own, we know that kids at younger and younger ages are more likely to own their own mobile device, their own smartphone, for example. They’re just simply being exposed to more information, right? Notifications, alerts via their social contacts and networks, that information now finds them as opposed to them having to seek out information. What this means is that for a lot of young people this summer, as a result of their connection to social media and their peers via social media, they were exposed to conversations. They were exposed to concerns about racial justice in a way that no other generation of children had been exposed to. They saw things, if it was videos that were captured and shown across TV screens and social media screens, they’re just simply being exposed to more. And what you could argue is that this enhanced exposure to news and information at least begins to open up the opportunity for young people to begin cultivating what we might call the ‘civic self’. That is, their own kind of identity, their own voice, and their own perspective in this conversation around race and social justice. Part of the research over the years is trying to understand the ways in which young people develop voice, develop identity, and develop agency and how we can support that. As many of our panelists have noted here, kids start developing this awareness, kids start to develop these ideas and identities at extraordinarily young ages. So, part of what we’re suggesting here is, how is social media influencing their identity development and social awareness. There are, of course, enormous implications in terms of some of the cons associated with this greater exposure to news and information via the social channels that they are connected to. One that I think is probably the most significant is just the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation. That is to say, the degree to which we are all, and certainly our kids are being via social media, are being exposed to campaigns that are deliberately designed to misinform, deliberately designed to provoke polarization and antagonism. So one of the things we have to do as a culture, as families, and as educators, is beginning to start equipping our young people with the tools and the resources to be able to discern and better protect themselves against these kinds of deliberate attempts to use these channels now to really intervene and bring frustration, anger, and again, polarization to our civic culture. One of the things that Common Sense did is they reached out to me. I think we did a similar study, looking primarily at 18 to 34 year olds in terms of their relationship to social media and their engagement with political issues, social issues, civic issues. One of the questions that we were interested in, given that young people are increasingly exposed to racial and social justice issues via social media, is how do they feel about the content that they’re being exposed to? And Common Sense asked if they could use a similar question to ask teens about this as well. Here’s what they found: a sizable number of teens express negative feelings in terms of the content that they’re being exposed to – frustration, confusion, being worn out by this. This is significant to parents, significant, to educators, and for those who care about young people. Even as they are now increasingly relying on social media as their primary source of news and information, it is a resource that is also bringing them great concern, great frustration. You could even argue, right, in some cases, it’s a detriment to their own mental health and well-being. So, how do we begin to help them navigate that tension between a resource that they rely on, and yet one that can also undermine their sense of well-being and efforts to better master their own ability to understand issues around racial justice? So let me end with just three tips for parents and educators as we begin to look forward and project forward in terms of how do we create a culture, a society, a world in which we help prepare young people to deal with the challenges that social media, um, brings? So, mentioned earlier, this idea of social media influencers. If you go to Instagram, if you go to Tik Tok, if you go to Twitter, if you go to YouTube, there’s this emergence of a whole generation of what I would call ‘micro celebrities’ or influencers. That is, people who have derived an enormous sense of credibility, an enormous sense of visibility, and authenticity based on their sort of savvy negotiation, adoption, and use of social media. So, if you think about a movement like Black Lives Matter, hashtag Black Lives Matter, here on Tik Tok for instance, or even on Instagram, what you’re seeing, right, are a new generation of spokespersons, a new generation of thought leaders who are beginning to help inform and help your children develop a vocabulary, a perspective, a worldview that begins to equip them with the materials they need to better understand these racial justice issues. So, what can we do as parents, as educators? To the points that were raised earlier by Dr. Adams Bass, by Dr. Stevenson, it’s just having conversations – having conversations with young people about who they are subscribing to via their social media channels. What videos are they looking at? What YouTube channels are they following? Because this is really where influence is happening. And it’s not so much to judge their decision to follow these people, to subscribe to these people, to view these people as influencers, but to simply understand like what is the connection. What is it that these influencers are saying or doing that give them this kind of power over how young people might begin to define and understand social justice issues? Another sort of really important issue related to social media is: how can educators and parents begin to facilitate a conversation with children or their students around the ways in which social media is engineered to filter certain minds of information to us? This idea that they’re driven by these predictive algorithms, right, that are based on things that you’ve watched, things that you’ve posted, things that you’ve shared, and then based on that kind of activity, then making recommendations about other things that you might be interested in, filling your feed up with other kinds of content that are similar to that. And what we’ve come to understand, right,no matter if it’s talking about racism or Black Lives Matter or anything, is that these algorithms oftentimes create, again, those bubbles where young people are only exposed maybe to certain perspectives or certain positions. What we know is that social media platforms also tend to prioritize information that is either shared very frequently, liked a lot, retweeted or reposted, generates comments on Instagram or likes on TikTok. And so, oftentimes, this information is inflammatory. It can be polarizing. You know, maybe you’ve heard the term ‘click-bait’. So, basically how do we help equip our young people with the tools and the skills to understand that what they’re seeing via their social media channels is oftentimes engineered by algorithms. And so, just building up more of a protective mechanism to help them be able to discern and understand what they’re being exposed to. And then finally, what I would refer to here as information literacy and how we might be able to support information literacy. What it means to be information literate today in 2020 is very different than what it meant to be information literate in 2000, 1990, 1980, and so forth. We know that our children live in a world in which there’s not a lack of information but, in fact, an abundance of information. So the question becomes, how do we help them to develop the skills, the competency to be able to discern, to be able to evaluate that information, to separate fact from opinion, to separate research expertise from an ideologically biased piece of content? Deep fake videos, fake news, you know again, information that’s designed primarily to misinform, to polarize, and to cause friction. And so, both as it relates to the social media filter bubble and as it relates to information literacy. If I’m a parent, I’m trying to have conversations with, with my children’s teacher, principal, others who are in charge of curriculum and asking, right, ‘What are schools doing to help young people develop the kinds of skills and capacity to better navigate and understand this world in which kids are now deeply immersed in?’ And I would argue, right, that having this conversation with kids can start extremely early. Like I would say as early as four, five, six, seven years of age, precisely because we know that kids have access to this content. They have access to devices. They’re being exposed to algorithms. They are being exposed to artificial intelligence. They are being exposed to social media at younger and younger ages. So the sooner we begin to start equipping them with the literacy skills to navigate this world, the better off they’re likely to be, the better off they’re likely to develop a sort of greater confidence and competence as they engage in issues around social justice. Um I think, as Dominic mentioned, there are a couple of books where I talk about young people in their relationship to technology. These are two recent books. And then, finally, this is for Media Innovation, a research institute that I’ve helped to build, where we’re looking at a lot of these issues through various research projects. I’ll stop there. Thank you.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Thank you so much. Um, I am overwhelmed by that [laugh], and I don’t have a kid. I could only imagine, and so much of what you evoke, Dr. Watkins, in thinking about how engineered information is and what now a parent’s responsibility is. And I don’t think there’s an easy sort of way to go about doing that. A question that quickly emerged for me was, at what age do you think, developmentally, kids can get in there with social media? What is the research telling us? I think that’s a big piece. Parents could be listening to this and thinking, ‘You know what, you just don’t get a phone.’ And that’s not the answer because the internet is everywhere. I imagine, too, that Dr. Adams-Bass might have a thought on that, but I’ll let you get in there first, Dr. Watkins, in responding, and then Dr. Adams-Bass, and then we’re gonna turn to some folks who have got some questions for us.
[Dr. Craig Watkins]: Absolutely, that’s a great question. And I would say right, as soon as your kids have exposure to these devices to these type of platforms at early and earlier ages. So if your kid is talking to a digital system, talking to Siri, talking to Alexas. So if your kid has access to a smartphone whether they own it or they use yours very frequently, I would say that right you can begin to start having very gradual conversations about how they’re interacting with that device, what that device means to them, and what kind of trust and relationship they’re developing with that device just helping them to develop a kind of critical awareness and vocabulary that as they grow up using these devices, they are already sort of being able to question and be critical of the ways in which those devices are supplying them with content and information.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Got it. Got it. That makes sense. And part of what you’re saying is, as the exposure increases, the conversations need to increase. What I appreciate in that response is that exposure isn’t just about the smartphone, which some parents might be thinking about because that’s a primary source for social media, but you’re saying that exposure is to any of these devices where information and algorithms could be interacting.
[Dr. Craig Watkins]: Absolutely.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Dr. Adams-Bass, you pinged me, and I wanted to check in if you wanted to add before we start to shift a bit to some broader questions that came in.
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: Yes, thank you, Dominic. I just wanted to add to what Dr. Watkins has said who was really projecting this change in the media a while ago. In terms of his work and his research, he’s dead on, and we’re where he had projected us to be. I would like to add that we really need to think of it as racial media literacy, right? So not just media literacy and understanding how to navigate and check, fact-check, and make sure that the information your children is receiving is actual, factual and based and not fictitious media but that they’re learning to navigate those racialized messages whether they are black or non-black children because as he mentioned, lots of that media is a form of instigating and bifurcating relationships among people. And what was mentioned earlier sort of developmentally, we know that adolescents are going through identity period. And media is incredibly influential at this moment in time where they’re developing these virtual identities and space which are in some ways as influencers, there is a monetary incentive often that comes with influencers that we haven’t begun to talk about. So this idea of not just navigating what they are exposed to but the messages they themselves are communicating around their racial identity and racial ideology. So it is the parents’ and teacher’s responsibilities to be thoughtful about the content that comes into our house, following them on social media accounts, the books, and the curriculum that is our part of conversation in our knowledge base so we can help those young people as they are exploring their identities, uh, understand the implications of what they’re putting in these spaces and what they are responding to. So I think that’s important of racial media literacy that we need to be equipped with as adults but also to equip our young people to understand which certainly goes back to the idea of racial socialization that we are communicating at this point in time but they are transitioning to adults and this social media is relying on them as a marketing tool.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: That’s huge and really important. I appreciate you intersecting the very two key ideas from the talk you gave but also bridging what Dr. Watkins has shared. Folks, I’m going to try to just summarize and hit high level some of the concepts that we’ve talked about, as I also invite Dr. Douge and Dr. Stevenson to come on screen as we move into Q&A portion. As folks have been sort of listening, we’ve covered racial socialization and media socialization and really talked about how you should be curating and thinking about what images your children have been exposed to and that is a really active role for you. We’ve also covered a bit around racial stress, really thinking about how do we talk to our kids about racism that they will experience, prepare them for that conversation, and that one’s ability to navigate racial stress would actually help one, help kids, help kids of color. Then we moved a little bit into the intersection of a kid’s health and navigating race and racism and what is the role of parents – um all parents to be able to prepare students, to prepare kids rather for that. And we rounded out the conversation in social media, in all of the ways and which social media is interacting and interfacing with you, with your kids. That was the place which I got the most overwhelmed. I’m like I don’t want to touch on facebook or instagram or anything else at this point knowing all the things it’s doing. Yeah that’s exactly where our kids are at. I’m hopeful that you are seeing the convergence in the intersection of a lot of what our panelists have already shared. I only wanted to touch high level so that you can hear it in one spot. With that, we will move into questions. We have a few folks who have opted wonderfully to share them on screen. So, I’ll ask Jeannie if you can come on, introduce yourself, and share your question with our panelists.
[Jeannie]: can you hear me?
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: You’re okay. Welcome!
[Jeannie Dawkins]: Hello, okay, so my name is Jeanne Dawkins and I’m a parent and a parent coach. And I have a question about how do you talk to your child about the difference between racism and bias? And my son is eight years old, and of course, he watches lots of social media. So, he is getting them confused, and he’s very animated about how people are racist against him. To be honest, the lines are really blurry for me, myself, so how can I talk to him about that?
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Yeah, and what I might add because I think is important, and there are other terms too, right? It’s when we throw in prejudice and discrimination. Um. This is about giving kids the language that they need to discern and speak accurately about their experiences. I have someone in mind who can start us off, but I want to check to see if any one of our panelists want to hop right in.
[Dr. Craig Watkins]: Alright, yeah. Just, I mean, it’s a great question. And one of the ways in which I guess I would approach having a conversation with a, with a young child about this is, I mean, recognizing that we all have bias, right? That humans, by nature, develop biases. But that’s very different from discrimination or racism. We might think of racism as something that’s beyond individual, personal taste or inclinations. Racism is a reflection of how institutions allocate resources, how institutions create these sort of stratified societies where we see some people occupying higher levels of resources and opportunities and mobility versus others who find themselves on the lower runs of access to resources and opportunities. So, bias is something that we all have. It’s important to recognize our biases and to work against um our biases, sort of influencing how we treat people, how we interact with people. But racism, as we’re learning more and more in these conversations today, is more about systematic processes, about institutions, and about the ways in which our organizations and institutions allocate resources along the lines of race and, of course, other indicators as well.
[Jeannie Dawkins]: Okay, so that’s deep. He’s nine. For me, what I said to him was, ‘Racism is based on hate, and it’s an individual thing. Some people may seem like they’re being racist, but they’re not. They just have a bias, and that’s what they know. They don’t know any difference.’ He needs to vocalize that just because, for him, it’s whenever he plays a game, he always gets the black piece. He goes to a school that is predominantly white, and he says to me, ‘They’re giving me the black piece because I’m black. They’re calling me to the table last because I’m black. That is racist.’ And I’m telling him it’s not racist because maybe they don’t know that what they’re doing could fall into that. It’s more of a bias. They don’t understand, and he needs to explain to them just because he’s black doesn’t necessarily mean that he likes the black piece, that he would prefer other colors.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Yeah, because what your son’s experiencing and what others are experiencing and acting out of is being implicated in a world where the system is already in place, and those preferences are already sort of mired, sort of, in. That’s really hard to unpack for a kid to unpack, right, in that association. And I think a powerful response for a kid is to ask another kid, ‘So why did you give me the black piece?’ One of the things that I think is super disarming from the folks who experience this into the folks who perpetuate it is the question that gets under. So, I don’t have to explain this for you, I don’t like the black piece, but I would like to know, ‘Why did you give it to me?’ And in whatever language that eight-year-old or nine-year-old would use to ask that question to their friends because that’s a part of exploring it, even at that age.
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: I would agree. I would agree with that, and also that maybe some of the feelings are related to the intentionality of those actions. So, what Dominic just said around asking helps him to get a sense and know for himself why that person did it. And there’s a lot of research also around racism versus discrimination, prejudice. But our perceptions of a moment is a little bit different. If I perceive something to be offensive, or dangerous, or cruel, that still affects my behavior, my focus, my learning in the process. So, the best way is exactly what Dominic is saying. If he can ask it, and that takes courage in itself. How do I practice? Maybe I have to practice doing it because he might be afraid of the answer. He’s going to build a sort of strength for future moments.
[Jeannie Dawkins]: Thank you, thank you, Jeannie. We’re going to move to the next question, but thanks for coming on and asking. Next up, we’re gonna bring Allison up. Hi, hey Allison!
[Allison]: Hi, thank you all so much. I’m an educator and parent of a 12-year-old girl in Oakland, California. I’m hoping you could speak to the complexities of supporting a black and mixed kiddo to know their place inside the Black Lives Matter movement.
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: oh so i’d like to take that, Dominic.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: of course, yeah.
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: Okay, so I’m a biracial woman myself. I identify as African-American, but I’m biracial, and so my children also identify as multi-racial, um multicultural. And I think first and foremost, I applaud you for asking the question and really working to try to help her with her identity. And I think for the most part, I always recommend celebrating both sides, right, who she is, right. Because identity is also a developmental process, and another panelist might be able to address this even more as well. Most people probably come into their sense of who they are, whether it’s sexual, racial, gender identity, much later right how they are going to decide whether who they identify with. But as they’re growing up, you can provide them a sense of affirmation of both sides of their culture, exploring that, and being willing to open to questions they may have about what Black Lives Matter means, what it means to you, what it means to them. So I really applaud you to continue those conversations and find as much as possible to affirm her identities. Also, even talk to her about how she identifies, right, and support her in that.
[Allison]: Yeah. Thank you.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: My addition would be if there are currently prominent voices in the Black Lives Matter movement that are mixed-race folk that posing to those voices so you can get a sense of what this can look like. If I’m going to participate at this level, if I’m going to involve myself at this level – that might be 20 years down the road for me, but I can have a vision of how other mixed-race folks are navigating this space where how you phenotypically show up has something to do with how you might be able to contribute, and that becomes a very hard space for folks who are mixed race and might have a phenotypic expression that can be read in one way or the other. Just hearing and seeing the voices of others who are doing it in the movement, who are committed, but also are navigating that space would be helpful.
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: I just want to follow up real quick, Dominic. I think for many kids who have a mixed identity, mixed cultural, mixed racial identity, also how they look phenotypically is important, right. How other people perceive them, as well as how they perceive themselves, I think is very important. So I think it’s important to engage in those conversations. How does she feel about herself, or he feel about himself, based on hair, skin complexion? How they come into the world and present to the world? And also, I think it is important for them to understand that, I think it’s important when there’s a parent of a different racial identity. So if your child identifies, for example, as African-American and you’re a non-African-American parent, I think it’s also important that we do the work to understand how they’re going to be brought up, how people are going to perceive them and receive them in the world. And again, that racial socialization strategy that Dr. Adams-Bass eloquently said, and has the evidence for, is also important as well because there’s going to be feelings. Kids, yeah, there’s colorism. Um. There’s a lot of stuff to unpack, but as parents, we have to do that work to understand what that history is and how it might present for our kids. We’re impacted.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Thanks, that’s awesome. We’re going to try to get to two more folks before we have to wrap up. I’ll invite Lydia.
[Lydia]: Hi everyone.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Hey, welcome!”
[Lydia]: Thank you so much. This is an amazing panel and discussion. I’m a parent and educator myself. I live in the Netherlands, and I am also a mom to four mixed-race children. We are also sort of global nomads, so we live in different countries and are currently situated in the Netherlands. And I’m really concerned about, following on Allison’s question, I’m concerned about how much knowledge is really too much knowledge for children of mixed-race culture, given that they do tend to sit on the fence and move from one and to the other. So I want to be able to provide a larger picture, but I’m really interested in the research around how much knowledge about race is essential for their identity and for them to find their place in the world, especially if they are living in a sort of global society, I guess. Thank you.
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: I could throw in a thought. Um. Thank you for the question, Lydia. One way to think about talking to children about race or anything is that if they have more knowledge, they will be able to manage the world in a particular way. Another way, though, is thinking about what children do with that knowledge or what children feel about that knowledge. In many respects, I would argue it’s how they emotionally translate that knowledge that’s functional for them on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s with the conversation, whether it’s with playgroups, wherever the context. So I think a bigger issue is how will they use the information in what part of their lives to help them feel secure about who they are. So, I would say that it’s not really about how much knowledge but how much are you aware that they find it functional for them to navigate the world. And so in many respects, we’re more interested in how kids can actually manage their stress about the knowledge or manage their stress about being different, and then not allowing other sort of confusions or hostilities to seep into how they define themselves. They’ll have strategies for acknowledging that that isn’t about me; that’s about you thinking about me, and I don’t have to swallow that Kool-Aid if that makes any sense. So some parents are a little worried that if I talk too much about this, will they start feeling bad? And I think it’s really again, we do talk to children all the time around scary information that they manage quite fine. Like some parents say, I tell my children not to talk to strangers or not take candy from strangers. I was talking to a group of fifth graders once, and I asked, ‘Do your parents ever say anything scary?’ They said, ‘Yeah, don’t talk to strangers, don’t take candy.’ And I said, ‘Well, then, did a stranger ever come up to you to give you candy?’ They said, ‘No, but we’re real prepared for it.’ So, the idea is, it’s what they do with it that’s more important than the actual content. I think children can be, questions, ‘How prepared do you want them to be when other people think of their difference as a problem?’
[Lydia]: I think the challenge is just that – preserving that innocence and, at the same time, allowing them to explore the space in which they can educate themselves and their peers. Sorry, Valerie, go ahead.
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: No, Lydia, thank you and welcome from joining us across the pond. A slightly add-on to that perspective: we spent a lot of time sort of coming back to this idea of racial socialization, which to me is so important. But I also want to talk about racial and ethnic identity, which has a cultural context. So, if you are sharing with your children, biracial or not, cultural and ethnic elements of their history, their lineage, their space, that can contribute to how they are navigating the racialized encounters or racism that they experience. Whether it’s the nine-year-old who is always being given the black piece or a conversation about being biracial. So, if you’re sharing with them their cultural identities, when they are confronted with sort of negative perceptions of self, they also have something to pull on in addition to responding to that negative information. And I think about my daughter. I’m teaching her about Harriet Tubman, and then going to, going past a stop on the underground railroad, and when I pointed it out to her, she took off running at three years old and said, ‘That’s Harriet Tubman’s house.’ So, at a later point in time, we’ll be able to come back to that conversation if Harriet Tubman is absent from the conversation about the history of Black people in America and contextualize that. So I think we also want to not just lean on the anxiety around, ‘How do we talk about racism without scaring our children?’ But we also want to celebrate the cultural context so that when we have those racial conversations or we are teaching them to navigate these spaces and how people respond to them, they have a rich history from both sides of the family to pull on. So, that’s just as important as preparing them to navigate and push back on people’s negative perceptions and media’s negative representations of who they are. So, I would encourage you to do that as well.
[Lydia]: Thank you so much.”
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Thanks, Lydia. Appreciate it. Last stop will be Jana. I invite you to join us on screen and ask your question.”
[Jana]: Hi, you’re welcome. Thanks for taking my question. My name is Jana Kim, and I’m a parent and an educator in Southern California. I would love to hear the panelists’ suggestions about how we as parents can help our public elementary and middle schools sort of more deliberately engage in anti-racist efforts, policies, professional development, things like that. And I specify K through 8 specifically because I think we heard from Dr. Douges talk that we can’t wait until high school to address these bias issues; the earlier, the better.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: Yeah, I have loads of thoughts, and I’m in the middle of it as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, bringing my team along regarding what a curriculum could look like. And why, I think, a framing for our panelists would be: So, why, like why would we move in this way when we haven’t before? And I think we have sort of information in social media. I think we know about media socialization – like what kids are going through in terms of racial stress. How do we bolster that message to schools that this is happening; therefore, we must approach it?
[Dr. Howard Stevenson]: Well, I was thinking in our interviews of young people, black and brown students in those grade groups, in predominantly white settings, in particular, many of them said they understood sometimes when students in their classrooms would actually say things that were offensive. And partially because they spent time with those folks, they knew their quirks, and they could attribute that what they were saying wasn’t necessarily malicious. It was still bothersome, but maybe not malicious. But what they often said was, it really really bothered us when the teachers didn’t do anything about it. So there was a sense of expectation that my teachers will protect this particular learning space, and that could be on the sports team, it could be on the playground, it could be in the classroom. So, one argument for why teachers need to be thinking about this is, as I mentioned in my part, that many educators see these moments but they’re overwhelmed and unsure as to what to do. So one answer to that argument is, can teachers be prepared to navigate and create safe, safer spaces for students of color or who are different so that they can feel protected, affirmed, and everybody can be held accountable?”
[Dr. Jacqueline Douge]: Oh, and thank you, Dr. Stevenson. That was great. And thank you for your question, Jana. I would say, from a parent perspective, I think it goes back to one of my slides: How do we help our kids really show up and be activists in a sense, right? To kind of take some ownership for what’s going on and be actionable. So again, I think locally where I live, there are students that formed an end-racism group. So these are young people, and supporting young people in this activism, right, constructive activism to make changes. Also, I would say, if you can, if there are issues in school, you need to talk to the principal. You need to talk to the school administrators. If you don’t hear from your school administrators, go to the Board of Education, right? And keep pressing for the changes. Hopefully, um, your school system might even be willing to form an Equity and Inclusion committee. Or if they’re not, you need to really lobby for that because those changes need to be made, and helping the school system make that difference. But I know sometimes it’s difficult for some parents to do that, but if as a collective group either supporting our children in the activism in terms of writing letters, speaking up for the Board of Education, or even sending letters, I think those are some things we can do as well.
[Dr. Craig Watkins]: So, I think those are all great points. And Jana, also thank you for your question. You know, something that Doctors Douge, Adams-Bass, and Dr. Stevenson mentioned during their presentations, they talked a lot about the home environment kind of as a literacy environment. So the kinds of books, the kinds of media, the kinds of posters, art that are in the home – all of those things send subtle and not-so-subtle messages around race and diversity. You know one of the things that I would do as parents or as parent groups is to advocate for our educators, our classrooms, our instructors to also create classrooms that are also multicultural in terms of their literacy, sort of environmental conditions. And I think it’s important that – one of the things that we do at the higher education level is, we have ongoing conversations with faculty about the kinds of readings that we are assigning in our courses and our syllabi. So maybe something that parents can do with their local school districts, with schools, and with superintendents is begin to sort of advocate for more diverse kinds of perspectives and reading content materials being incorporated into the classroom. And that’s one way of exposing kids, right, to different views, different stories, different perspectives in a way that can begin to cultivate the sensitivity to the need to think more nuanced ways around race, diversity, and difference.
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: One last word from Dr. Adams-Bass before Pam wraps us up.
[Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass]: Sure. And again, Jenna, thank you for your question. I just want to take you back on Dr. Stevenson, Dr. Douge, and Dr. Watkins and say, why not change the curriculum? But more importantly, ask the students. You know, I think we’ve all heard, everyone has said that the students are picking up on what teachers are or are not not doing. They learn that as early as preschool. And so if there’s some resistance from the faculty and administrators, why not ask the students? They’re right there. They know what they are and aren’t experiencing. And if you have students, as Dr. Watkins said, who have more diverse home environments, those students are going to be able to say very early, ‘At home, we have this book. We don’t have these kind of books in the classroom.’ You know, and so I do think that asking the students, and if there’s no one on staff to sort of facilitate that conversation, you have a panel of experts here. There are people who do this work and help to facilitate it. But certainly asking the students as well as the parents, ‘What’s at home? What’s here? What’s missing?’ And you know my last part of that is, I had a student who once enrolled in my class and she said, ‘Until she saw the movie Black Panther, she had no idea there was a Black Panther party.’ So that’s why she wanted to take my class, to learn about the historical legacy of Black Americans in Black history. So again, if it’s missing, they’re not going to get it. And they may not get it until they’re sitting in one of our classrooms. So ask those students as well as those parents and bring that to the teachers.”
[Dr. Dominic Rollins]: I have no final words besides ‘thank you.’ And I recognize we’re a couple minutes over. I just want to express gratitude to the panel. We probably could have gone for another hour and a half. We can’t, and instead, I’m gonna go ahead and turn over to Pam to wrap us up fully. Thank you all, folks, really do appreciate it.
[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Thank you all for coming and for participating in this really critically important discussion. And thank you, Dominic, Valerie, Howard, Craig, and Jacqueline, for all of your time and expertise. Thank you also for sharing your stories and concrete information that others can learn. We hope that the conversation today has encouraged you to think critically about this issue and to start or continue conversations with your kids about race, social justice, and representation. To continue learning about this topic, be sure to visit our website where we will post additional insights in the coming days. We’ll also be posting a YouTube video of today’s workshop, which we encourage you to share with your fellow parents, teachers, clinicians, researchers, and friends. For more from Children and Screens, please follow us on social media at the account shown on your screen. Our discussions about digital media use and children’s well-being will continue throughout the fall and winter with weekly Wednesday workshops. Next Wednesday, September 23rd, at noon EDT, we will be discussing the latest research on video gaming. The conversation will cover everything from violent video game play to when and why you might want to pick up that remote and join in. It promises to be a lively and enlightening conversation. When you leave the workshop, you will see a link to a short survey. Please click on the link and let us know what you thought of today’s webinar. Thanks again, and everyone, be safe and well.