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Harvard EdCast: Talking "the Talk" About Race

Columbia University Assistant Professor Raygine DiAquoi shares what she has discovered about how today's black parents talk to their sons about race and discrimination.

Raygine DiAquoiHow do black parents communicate information to their children about their personal and group identities as it relates to race, intergroup relationships, and their place in the racial hierarchy? It's a delicate and challenging talk to have, says Columbia University Assistant Professor Raygine DiAquoi, Ed.M.'11, Ed.D.'15. But parents of minority children have been having this talk for generations.

"While it's a feature of black life, or a feature of the lives of many minoritized populations, it is also very much a public part of American life," says DiAquoi. "The talk reflects what's happening with us as a society racially."

After the shooting of Trayvon Martin, DiAquoi began to explore how "the talk" — specifically black parents speaking to their sons — has changed over the years, looking at four different periods in American history. Her findings, detailed in the Harvard Educational Review article, Symbols in the Strange Fruit Seeds: What “the Talk” Black Parents Have with Their Sons Tells Us About Racism, were surprising: Despite what seems like progess in our society, "the talk" really hasn't changed. Are we standing still, or worse, moving backwards?

"This has great implications for all of us,"says DiAquoi. "This isn’t just a black issue; this is an American issue that I think is unique to America in many ways."

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, DiAquoi looks at how today's parents have these conversations about race and discrimination with their sons and what educators can do to build on those lessons.

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.