If race is largely a social construct, then teaching children about it will only perpetuate racism — right? Wrong: Studies show precisely the opposite. Open conversations about race and racism can make white children less prejudiced and can increase the self-esteem of children of color.

If states ban the teaching of critical race theory, as conservative lawmakers in many are attempting to do, or if schools don’t provide consistent education about racism and discrimination, it’s imperative that parents pick up the slack.

Even if we don’t want them to, children do notice differences in race and skin color. And that means that attempts to suppress discussions about race and racism are misguided. Those efforts won’t eliminate prejudice. They may, in fact, make it worse.

So-called colorblind parenting — avoiding the topic of race in an effort to raise children who aren’t prejudiced — is not just unhelpful, it actually perpetuates racism. That’s because racism isn’t driven solely by individual prejudice. It’s a system of inequity bolstered by racist laws and policies — the very fact that opponents of teaching critical race theory are trying to erase.

At home, choose books, TV shows and movies with characters from a variety of backgrounds — and discuss the characters’ race and ethnicity with your children. When all of the characters are white, acknowledge it. Start a conversation about why that might be the case, and why it’s not representative of the world we live in. Point out racist tropes in books, movies and TV shows when you see them.

Encourage your children to be friends with children of different races, too. “Friendships are a major mechanism for promoting acceptance and reducing prejudice,” explained Deborah Rivas-Drake, a psychologist and educational researcher at the University of Michigan. But if you’re white, don’t expect people of color to do the labor of educating your children about race.

Read the full article at the New York Times.