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Supporting Black Children During COVID-19: How Families Can Support Black Children’s Racial-Identity

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Guest post by Kerry-Ann Escayg, PhD, discussing how families can support racial socialization—a necessary component to a child’s holistic development—while at home.  

 

Our way of life has changed drastically. Instead of normal routines, such as attending school, visiting the mall, and spending time with family and friends, we are wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and—for the ever-optimistic—encouraging ourselves and others. The professional lives of educators, especially elementary educators, have also changed. Instead of in-class instruction, teachers are now turning to Zoom and other e-resources to deliver the grade-level curriculum; however, this poses a significant challenge for early childhood educators who use play-based learning to support children’s social and emotional development. In a time of trepidation and doubt, some cling to faith, others to hope.

Amid the educational and economic chaos there lies an opportunity (provided that families have the resources and the time) to nurture one area of children’s social-emotional development: their racial identity.  

Research shows that racial socialization is linked to positive racial identity; although, the bulk of the literature has focused on older children. Investigations on young children, though sparse, also reveal positive child outcomes. Racial socialization is necessary to a child’s holistic development, particularly in a context such as the United States, where racial oppression and injustice persist.

During this challenging time of remote learning, families can complement the academic curriculum by centering their child’s racial identity. For instance, they can discuss the following with their children:

  • Black history, including preslavery history
  • Examples of Black leaders and change agents, both contemporary and historical, who challenge negative stereotypes and anti-blackness rhetoric
  • Skin color and hair texture in positive and affirming ways
  • Picture books that promote a positive racial identity 

Parents and families of young Black girls can also discuss Black women who have defied racial barriers, empowered their community, and resisted race-gender ideologies through self-pride and collective resistance. Empowering young Black girls with self-love and self-acceptance is an act of parental and community resistance, connecting the threads of past, present, and future activism—and Black feminism. Activism, therefore, is the outward manifestation of self-acceptance and racial pride, the understandings of self and other connections, and the recognition of the “I” in the “we.” 

By providing Black children with an education rooted in racial pride, we prepare them for educational and personal success. We give them the tools to chart their journeys, to advance change, to recognize and challenge injustice regionally and nationally. We give them hope. And, all things considered, is hope not the very essence of love?

 

About the Author 

Kerry-Ann Escayg, PhD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She is co-author of Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-Bias Classrooms.

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