The word race evokes so many emotions in all of us. Culture has influenced how we talk about race, but it is important to see what God’s Word has to say about it because His voice matters above all others. Scripture teaches that all people have worth and value because God made us in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).
Scripture tells us many things about how God views us all and instructs us to treat one another. Acts 10:28b says, “but God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean.” Later in that same chapter, verses 34-35 read, “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 17:26a says, “from one man he has made every nationality.”
As a young child and teenager, I wasn’t always shielded from experiencing racial tension, but I didn’t allow the pain inflicted upon me to harden my heart. I’ve always had a heart for people and especially for diverse groups of people. I am the product of a multiracial family, went to racially diverse schools, and was raised to love all people regardless of the color of their skin. I am so thankful for these roots, and they meant even more to me once I gave my heart to Christ when I was eighteen years old.
My husband, who is Caucasian and was raised in a Christian home, said he is so grateful to his parents for the example they set every day in demonstrating their value and love for others by treating everyone with dignity and respect.
He shared, “My father was intentional at surrounding us with diverse people groups and putting us in situations where we could serve others. These examples taught me that we are all equal and to put others before myself. His actions spoke loudly! … My mother taught me at an early age that God created all of us in His image. I knew nothing else. The impact of those moments cannot be measured—I am who I am because of that time investment and commitment she made.”
Talking about race can be challenging, but it is not impossible. So, how do you teach and talk to your kids about race relations? Where do you begin? Conversations should be age appropriate. All kids are at different stages in how they process information, so as their parent, you don’t have to be an expert, but you should seek wisdom as you discuss the subject with them.
The ABCs of Teaching Your Kids About Racial Relations
Racism is a learned behavior, so it’s never too early to talk about it. Remember, we all bleed the same, have feelings and aspirations, and most often want the same things in life for our families.
- ACTIONS/ATTITUDES: You are the most influential voice in your child’s life. Children watch and listen to what we say as parents. They are like sponges and will follow your lead, listen to your words, and replicate your actions. Be the example of Jesus and show them how to love all people.
- BELIEFS/BEHAVIOR: Do your beliefs about race match your behavior about race? Are you continuing to educate yourself on the topic?
- COMPASSION/CARING: Do your kids see you helping people who are racially different from you? Do they see you praying for those who have experienced pain in this area?
Regardless of what stage or age your child is in, teach them that racism is a heart issue and is a sin in God’s eyes. Pray before sharing with them. You need God’s wisdom in how to start, stop, and continue conversations with your children. Know that if you don’t talk to them about issues surrounding race, someone else will.
Teaching Kids About Race (Infant to Middle Childhood)
- Start early. Children start to notice differences at an early age. Teach them about the beauty of all of God’s creation.
- Resist color blindness. God made us all different and for His good design and purposes. Teach them to embrace our differences.
- Recognize your children’s limits and know when to stop talking about it.
- Keep it simple and use examples they can relate to, such as sharing with everyone, showing kindness to all, and reading age-appropriate books that include diverse people groups.
Teaching Kids About Race (Young Teens to Teenagers)
- Have diverse groups of friendships. Lead by example and encourage your teens to have friends from different racial backgrounds.
- Have honest conversations about race and keep the lines of communication open. Create a safe place for them to talk; your teens have already had experiences with this subject among their peer group.
- Create opportunities to serve different communities together as a family (outreach and youth programs in diverse communities).
- Don’t be afraid of hard questions even if you don’t know the answers.
My husband noted that even though the words and direction his parents taught him regarding race were impactful, it was through observing their intentional examples that shaped his outlook the most.
“They created an environment in our home that led me to love everyone. The words we speak and how we speak them are very important, but it is the actions that validate our words. … There is a saying that goes like this: ‘Practice what you preach,’ and it speaks volumes to everyone in the development of the hearts and minds of our children. I know for a fact that my parent’s intentional acts shaped me and my mindset and who I am as a child of God today. And for that, I am forever grateful.”
Jesus called us to set the example here on earth when He gave us this charge, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” He gave us the answer to race relations, so let’s be intentional about raising our kids to love one another and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
Adrianna Anderson is a Bible teacher, speaker, writer, contributing author to Because of Hope: Reflections of Faith, Lifeway Women trainer, and Lifeway Women event specialist. She is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a former women’s ministry director who has also served on multiple advisory committees and the board of directors for Christian organizations. She has led and discipled women from multigenerational backgrounds in various capacities of women’s ministry for many years. Adrianna is passionate about seeing women be biblically literate, able to defend the reason for their faith, and focused on the Great Commission. God has used Adrianna’s unique life experiences to develop in her a deep heart for ministry to women. Widowed at the age of twenty-four, the Lord sent her to live as a missionary in Mexico to teach English in a Christian school and ESL classes to the local youth. Adrianna remarried in 2006. Adrianna and her husband, Gregory, are an interracial couple who teach the subject of race to churches from a biblical perspective while simultaneously promoting the biblical principles of love, forgiveness, unity, and reconciliation.