On a rainy Saturday morning this spring, 40 teachers and school administrators sat on folding chairs in the basement of a Brooklyn school for an all-day workshop on how to talk about race in the classroom. Organized by Border Crossers, a nonprofit group that trains teachers, administrators and parents how to explore race and racism, the event was led by trainers Ana Duque and Ben Howort, both former teachers.

“I do this work because, as a former kindergarten through third-grade teacher, and as a parent, I learned that when children have the language to explain race and racism, good things can happen,” Duque told the group. “There’s something about race that’s so fundamentally uncomfortable in our culture — especially when it intercepts with conversations about class and privilege.”

The teachers came from every New York City borough and from places as far-flung as Oregon and Washington, D.C. They were milling around a classroom at Columbia University’s Teachers College when facilitator Natalia Ortiz projected a sentence onto the board and instructed them to fill in the blank.

“When I talk about race and racism…,” it read. After a moment of hesitation, the teachers jumped right in.

Noah Garcia, a teacher in Brooklyn’s District 15, leads professional development on race and equity at her school. She said she found it harder to talk to her white colleagues about race than with her students. For Hector Alvarez, assistant education director at Greater Brunswick Charter School in New Jersey, status as a native Spanish speaker complicates discussions about race — vocabulary commonly used to speak on the subject in his culture might be deemed offensive in the American context. Another educator said that her fellow white colleagues stopped being friendly to her after she tried to start conversations about race. “When you’re socially excluded, that will get you to shut up,” she said.


One Manhattan organization is trying to get parents to talk to their children about race, especially when the conversation gets uncomfortable.

Border Crossers, a Manhattan-based organization that holds workshops for parents and teachers on how to talk to children about racism, is compiling a list of resources it believes could be helpful for people who are hesitant to talk to the kids in their lives about recent high-profile cases of police brutality.

“There’s this fear that talking about race will put ideas in kids’ heads,” said Benny Vásquez, co-executive director of Border Crossers. “But kids are actually really hungry. They’re seeing race and racism and they’re looking to us as adults to have real conversations…”

Facing Race: Building for Racial Justice In Schools Post-Election (November 18, 2016)Read

black-youth-projectBlack Youth Project

2014 Facing Race Conference, Dallas (November 2014)Read


“Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?” (May 11, 2012)

Republished in:
Educators4Excellence: “Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?” (May 11, 2012)
Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?” (May 12, 2012)

“Here Are Easy Ways to Have Tough Talks With Kids About Race” (February 20, 2012)
“The Horrific Death of Shaima Alawadi and the Many Lessons of Hate” (March 30, 2012)

Republished in:
The Root: “How to talk to kids about race” (February 21, 2012)
Facing History And Ourselves: Using Facing History to Talk With Students About Race” (February 20, 2012)


New York Writers’ Coalition Blog
“Education Re-Segregation” (May 17, 2012)
“Crossing Borders”
 (February 16, 2012)

The Pulse at Ohio State
“Talking About Colors Other Than Crayons: Should Race Be a Topic in Elementary Classrooms?” (March 23, 2012)

Socially Just Parenting Project
“Talking With Kids About Race” (February 21, 2012)

“Three Tips for Social Entrepreneurs: Balancing Work with the Holidays” (December 6, 2011)

Community Clean Up” (April 27, 2011)

NYC Private Schools Blog
“Private and Public Schools Come Together to ‘Green’ West 61st Street” (Nov 23, 2009)
“Schools Build Community Around West 61st Street” (June 19, 2010)

 “Border Crossers” (June 2009)