Reframing Race Appearences

REFRAMING RACE: Understanding the Developmental Challenges of Multiracial Children in Independent Schools


“What are you?” “Are you black or white or Asian — which one is it?” “That’s not your dad is it? You don’t look anything like him!” “How come your mom is black? You never told me that.” “Are you adopted?” “Where did you get that curly hair?” “What are you, anyway?”

Educators and parents face a daunting task in trying to help multiracial children come of age with a healthy racial identity in our race-conscious world. The challenge is especially urgent given that at least one in eight babies being born today is of mixed race heritage. This rising generation of multiracial children prompts us as a society to reexamine our long held beliefs about race and racial labels.

How does our history of racial categorization into five distinct races — Caucasian, African American, Asian American, Native American and Latino — affect children who identify with more than one racial group? How can educators best help this growing group of students meet the challenges they face in a society that pigeon holes even our youngest children by race? And how does this dramatic demographic shift open up opportunities for children of all racial backgrounds to rethink their assumptions and develop a healthier understanding of race and culture in our society?

In her talk, “Reframing Race: Understanding the Developmental Challenges of Multiracial Children in Independent Schools,” Donna Jackson Nakazawa helps educators and parents understand the critical role they play in helping multiracial children develop a healthy and authentic racial identity. She emphasizes that to reach that goal we must first erase commonly held myths about race and examine the ways that we as a society categorize individuals by race.

In “Reframing Race,” Nakazawa corrects long-held myths about race and multiracial identity and leads audiences through a developmentally-based analysis of what multiracial children experience at different ages and grade levels. When addressing educators, she describes the tools teachers can use to support this growing cohort of students; lists the characteristics of multiculturally competent schools; addresses questions and concerns that commonly arise in school settings and offers “teacher scripts” that help to address them.

When the audience includes parents, Nakazawa specifically addresses how families can help multiracial children develop a strong, healthy racial identity — and what factors can directly undermine that success. Nakazawa details ways in which parents can teach their children to draw on their unique racial identity as a source of strength, thus laying the foundation for an unflappable sense of self.


Keynote, The Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE), 2007 Annual Diversity Conference, Boston, MA

Keynote, The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), 2006 Annual Diversity Conference, Washington, D.C.

Association of Independent Schools of Maryland (AIMS), 2004 Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD

Bank Street School, New York, NY

Potomac School, McLean, Virginia

Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.

Wilmington Friends School, Wilmington, DE

Georgetown Day School, Washington D.C.

Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) School Counselors Group, St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, Alexandria, Virginia

Maret School, Washington D.C.

Edmunde Burke School, Washington, D.C.

Green Acres School, Rockville, MD

The Key School, Annapolis, MD

Indian Creek School, Crownsville, MD

Association of Independent Schools of Maryland School Counselors Group, Calvert School, Baltimore, MD

Anne Arundel County Literacy Program, Barnes and Noble, Annapolis, MD

Families with Children from China, Rockville, MD

Enoch Pratt Library, Baltimore, MD

The Annapolis Book Festival, Annapolis, MD