How Progressive Parents Are Addressing Racial Bias
Progressive parents (as profiled in our report Nurturing New Parents) are responding to the current wave of Black Lives Matter protests by finding new avenues to school their kids (and themselves) on anti-racism. Brands can respond with tools to equip all families with the vocabulary to kickstart raw, honest conversations about race.
- Recalibrating the Picture Book: Over half of American children under 15 are now Black, Hispanic, Asian or multiracial (Brookings, 2019). This is forcing the publishing industry towards more inclusive narratives – a trend we highlight in The Gen Alpha Moment. A renewed demand for diverse stories is driving interest in inclusive US publisher and advocacy group The Conscious Kid, which sold out of all its titles following the protests.
Major publishers, like US-based Penguin Random House, are releasing books that explicitly address racism. In mid-June, it will publish Antiracist Baby, a board book by US anti-racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist). It outlines nine steps for both children and parents to battle racism in society and within themselves.
“White parents especially don’t talk about [race], because they believe that kids should be colourblind,” Kendi told the Los Angeles Times. “I wanted to provide a tool for other parents to have conversations with little children about racism before they can even understand it.” It’s currently the third bestselling children’s book on Amazon, and is already on its second print run of 100,000 after quickly selling out of its first, pre-publish run of 50,000.
For more on the rise of inclusive picture books, see Toy Fair New York 2019.
- Broadcasters Spark Teachable Moments: As we outline in Decoding Childhood in Flux, children are increasingly reporting high levels of stress – borne from awareness of global issues like poverty, and social pressures such as bullying. New media formats are helping them broach big issues by incorporating well-loved characters.
On June 6, American children’s television show Sesame Street aired an episode in which puppets and US news anchors Erica Hill and Van Jones discussed racism to help young viewers understand the protests.
US kid-friendly channel Nickelodeon also provided an opportunity to open parent-child discussions by participating in the social media solidarity effort #blackouttuesday (June 2). It halted programming for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time that a white police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck, killing Floyd – an unarmed Black man – and sparking protests worldwide.
With news literacy becoming a critical skill for kids, Sesame Street’s town hall format – a strategy Nickelodeon also used to discuss the pandemic – could become a go-to for parents wanting to reassure kids on social and political issues.
- Playtime Reflections: Parents are becoming increasingly aware of the social impact of the toys they buy, stoking a rise in eco-conscious and diverse games – see Toy Fair New York 2020 for examples. Catering to these socially conscious parents, Lego paused the US marketing of city sets with police officer mini-figurines, acknowledging that children could use them to perpetuate the racist power structures they see in society.
It’s an issue that companies must address – as US arts and crafts giant Crayola has done with its new pack of diverse skin-tone colours, launched in late May. See The Brief for details.