2021 Equity Challenge Day 5: How Do We Learn About Race?

We learn to be racist, therefore we can learn not to be racist. Racism is not genetical. It has everything to do with power.

Jane Elliott

American schoolteacher and diversity educator

This week, we have examined concepts like bias, privilege and racism. Where do these ideas come from? How are they perpetuated? From a young age, children can become keenly aware of the differences between the people around them. How they make sense of these differences is shaped by family, friends, community, schools and media, among other influences and experiences. This process, called socialization, develops our values, beliefs, behaviors and even norms that play out in society. Socialization is a lifelong process but is critical during childhood.

Racial and ethnic socialization is the process through which children learn different attitudes and behaviors about racial groups. According to RESilience Initiative, this process has influence on “children’s racial identity and self-concept, beliefs about the way the world works, and repertoire of strategies and skills for coping with and navigating racism and inter- and intra-racial relationships and interactions.”

For adults, the media often plays an outsized role in our ongoing process of socialization. The news, television, movies, books and music we consume shape our understanding of race and ethnicity through representations of different people and cultures. Throughout history, media in all forms has played a vital role in raising public awareness on instances of racism, discrimination and bias. Racial and ethnic socialization is important for us to understand because it informs our beliefs, conversations, and actions about race and racism.



We all play a role in children’s racial and ethnic socialization. Look through these resources on engaging children in conversations about race. (5 minutes)

Read this resource to understand how people with children of different races in their life intentionally or unintentionally socialize the children. (3 minutes)

Review a Pew Research Study that uncovered how Black, Hispanic and white adults feel the news media misunderstands them. (5 minutes)


Watch this video to learn more about socialization and how it shows up in many areas of our life and identity (e.g., gender, class, race, religion, politics). (10 minutes)

Watch a panelist discuss how structural racism and bias show up in newsrooms and the content consumed by the public. (10-minute read + 60-minute video)


Listen to these stories that speak to how racial socialization shapes our individual and collective lives. (3 minutes each)

Reflect And Share:

  1. What messages (direct and indirect) did you learn about race growing up?
  2. What do you need to unlearn about race and ethnicity?
  3. What messages have you received about race from the media you consume?
  4. What are ways you can broaden your understanding of diversity-related issues by seeking perspectives beyond media outlets? (e.g., building relationships, consulting local organizations and experts in your community, and looking at local history)


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC21