As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches next week, many of our children are learning in school about different aspects of the legacy of equality and race in our country. For some children, that conversation stops at school. Because of the old wounds surrounding our history of race and ethnicity, many parents I talk to are reluctant to talk with their children about race or simply do not know what to say.

Some parents say:

But I don’t treat anyone differently.

If I don’t talk about it, my kids won’t know any better.

They learn about civil rights in school. I think that is enough.

If thoughts like these are preventing you from talking with your children about race or ethnicity, I would encourage you to reflect on the source of your hesitation.

Do you really believe there is no difference between how Americans of different ethnicities are treated and perceived by people, or portrayed in the media? Do you really believe if you don’t acknowledge it, it won’t exist for your child? If your children do feel uncomfortable or confused about the way they see someone being treated, do you want them to “treat them like everyone else” (or, instead, speak up)? If the answers to any of these questions are no, I would challenge you to challenge yourself. Have the uncomfortable conversation. Take the chance. You and your child will feel more connected to one another and to the wider world.

Here is a great resource for talking with your children about race and ethnicity: http://www.civilrights.org/publications/reports/talking_to_our_children/

And, if you are still not convinced you need to have this talk, please watch this video which discusses the work of teacher Jane Elliott, who was brave enough to have the tough conversation: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/