Kindergarten teacher gently explaining racism to her students is a must-see for all kids
via The TuTu teacher / Instagram

Racism is a difficult subject to discuss among adults and it can be just as challenging when talking about it with children. It's important for parents or teachers to talk about it in a way that's age-appropriate and to address any strong emotions that are caused by the discussion.

Talking about about race with kids can be difficult, but avoiding the conversation helps perpetuate racism.

"Because institutional racism is so ingrained and so automatic and so accepted, without enough people wanting to enact true, long-lasting change, institutional racism ends up becoming our personal bias. But we still must be held accountable for our actions," Sarah Gaither, assistant professor psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, told CNN Health.


Over the past few weeks, the topic of race in America has come to the forefront of the national conversation after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abrey and Breonna Taylor. While these deaths have caused unbelievable grief anger, they present parents and educators with a teachable moment.

Vera Ahiyya, who's known affectionately as the "TuTu Teacher," is a Kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn, New York, who created a great video explaining the issue of race in America for her students.

Ahiyya does such a great job at talking about a subject at a level that children can understand it's being viewed and shared by people outside of her classroom.

Let's Talk About Race www.youtube.com

"You may have noticed, or heard your family talk about what's happening on the news … Beyond just the COVID virus, which is spreading, we also are combating a different kind of disease," she begins the clip.

"It's something that happens with the way that people think," she adds. "Some people have the belief that people with black or brown skin should not have the same rights or privileges as people with white skin. This is called racism, and racism has happened in the United States for over 400 years. That's a very long time, and by now, you would think that something so terrible would be gone. But it's not that easy. Racism is everywhere and it is our job to stop it."

She then gives her students tips on how to handle racism when they see it in the world to stop it from spreading.

"One way to stop racism is to call it out when you see it," Ahiyya continues. "That means, if you see someone being treated differently because of the color of their skin, you have the voice, you make the choice, to say 'This is wrong.'"

via Tim Dennell / Flickr

"You can decide whether to say something, or walk away," she advises. "But your choice can impact the lives of a lot of people."

She then shows how people are fighting racism today by protesting in the streets.

"So, right now, what's happening is a lot of people are making the choice to say 'that's wrong, racism is wrong' and they are talking specifically about racism towards black people," Ahiyya says.

Ahiyya ends her comments by empowering children to fight back against racism.

"You can do it by writing letters to show your support," Ahiyya tells them. "You can do it by speaking up when you see something that is very wrong. You can ask questions to your family and friends about how you can do more to help. There's so many ways to help."

She concludes the video reading "Let's Talk About Race" by Julius Lester.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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