When is the right time to engage students on racial identity and segregation? The Fieldston school, a diverse private school in NYC, separated students into 'affinity groups' based on racial identity, and the experiment provides bold testimony to how uncomfortable it can be to start young, and how that the long-term benefit may be great. Does bringing it up so young undo the ethos of equality, or does it move us closer towards equity?
Most kids don't form a sense of racial identity until around age 7. By age 9, most kids still think of race in literal terms without value judgement (e.g. food, language, skin color). While cross-racial friendships flourish in elementary school, "Beginning in middle school, they define themselves through membership in groups, or cliques, learning and performing the fraught social codes that govern adult interactions around race." We know it's a life-long development, and in Oakland, we are so grateful to have the Mosaic Project working with 4th and 5th graders—and now we are excited and honored to be working with middle schoolers to stop these cycles of segregation right when it starts to happen. Let's go!