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Here's How W. Kamau Bell Talks About Race With His Kids

"She knows she’s half her mom and half me. She knows her mom is a different color than I am, and slowly we have to say, 'And here’s what all that means.'"

Posted on February 18, 2016, at 3:38 p.m. ET

W. Kamau Bell is a comedian and host of an upcoming CNN series, United Shades of America.

Matt Sayles / AP

He also has two young daughters, and in an interview for BuzzFeed's podcast The Tell Show, he talked about what it's like to raise inquisitive, mixed-race children.

He doesn't avoid talking about race with his 4-year-old daughter Sammy...

"The thing that I’ve learned most is not to shy away from talking to her about race, or even racism, in a way that she can understand. Kids will let you know if they don’t understand, because they’ll say 'I don’t understand.'"—W. Kamau Bell
Mike Hinson / BuzzFeed

"The thing that I’ve learned most is not to shy away from talking to her about race, or even racism, in a way that she can understand. Kids will let you know if they don’t understand, because they’ll say 'I don’t understand.'"—W. Kamau Bell

But he waited until she brought it up first.

"She realized she was a different color from her mom, but she had no judgement about it," says Bell. "She thought [we] were the same color. She was like, 'Me and dada are the same color.' And, weirdly, I was like, Yay! Because that's what race does. It screws you up!"

He knows his daughters are in new territory...

Neither Bell nor his wife, Melissa Hudson Bell, knows what it's like to be a mixed-race kid. And, says Bell, "The identity of what it means to be mixed in America is a bigger, growing identity. So [even] that will probably change over the next 10 to 15 years."

And that's why children's books can be a great jumping off point.

http://www.selinaalko.com/
http://www.selinaalko.com/

Author and illustrator Selina Alko writes books for kids about mixed-race families, and Bell used her book I'm Your Peanut Butter Big Brother as a conversation starter with Sammy, who now calls herself "peanut butter colored." (She calls her dad "chocolate" and her mom "oatmeal".)

Children's book author Selina Alko with her husband, Sean Qualls
Ted Lewis / Via Courtesy Selina Alko

Children's book author Selina Alko with her husband, Sean Qualls

Once you start talking about race, you'll eventually start talking about racism.

To do that, Bell looked for children's books about Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. That way, he says, "My daughter has heard the word slavery before she gets to school and some teacher talks about it in a way that I'm not comfortable with, or not there to help clear it up with her."

Bell has also learned that you can tell kids anything, because they don't know anything.

"What I’ve learned is that you can tell kids anything, because they don’t know anything… They’re here to figure out what’s going on in the world, so they’re not going to be like, 'That’s too much information. I can’t handle that right now.'"—W. Kamau Bell
Mike Hinson / BuzzFeed

"What I’ve learned is that you can tell kids anything, because they don’t know anything… They’re here to figure out what’s going on in the world, so they’re not going to be like, 'That’s too much information. I can’t handle that right now.'"—W. Kamau Bell

Frank Micelotta / AP

For the full interview, subscribe to The Tell Show on iTunes or listen here.

Mike Hinson / BuzzFeed

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