Talking to kids about hate crimes

Violence against Asians and Black people are at a record high. Here’s how to explain the issue to children—and what they can do to help.

Kavan Yee was in the kitchen on a quiet March evening when he saw the news about a mass shooting in Atlanta on his computer screen. A 21-year-old white male had gone on a shooting spree, killing eight people—six of them were Asian women. Yee says he barely had time to process the horrific news before his 11-year-old daughter, Kellyn, started asking questions.

As an educator, Yee recognizes the importance of having a direct and open dialogue with children when terrible events happen. “There’s a lot of confusion, and children want to know that they are safe,” says Yee, the director of middle school at Lowell School in Washington, D.C. “It’s natural for kids to have a lot of questions, especially about why things happened.”

According to a recent report from the FBI, hate crimes against Asians and Black people have soared to a record 12-year high, increasing by nearly 42 percent since 2014. The steady uptick in race-motivated violence in recent years has been attributed to a backlash against the first Black president, government officials pushing the blame of the global pandemic on the “Chinese virus,” and politicians defending white supremacists. Racial tensions were further escalated by the killings of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people by law enforcement—events that sparked nationwide protests.

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