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