Better World

The day after MLK Jr. Day is the National Day of Racial Healing — here’s how to make it meaningful

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The National Day of Racial Healing takes place annually on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Day of Racial Healing is an opportunity for Americans of all races to look beyond the inspiration of one important historical figure, and to continue the hard conversations about race and racism into the rest of the year.

The Day of Racial Healing began in 2017, during a period of significant national political turmoil and racial violence that continues today, and has since been observed in a nationally televised event. Observing the day means “when racial healing activities happen in homes, schools, businesses and communities across the country with the goal of creating a more just and equitable future for our children,” according to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which initiated the first Day of Racial Healing.

Racial healing begins with acknowledging the truth of racism and racial trauma. And that can only happen with truthful education, courageous conversations, and honest self-reflection. Here are some starting points and ways to continue this work of racial healing as a family.

Learn about the history of race and racism with kids

Civil rights activist Minnijean Brown-Trickey said in 2023’s National Day of Racial Healing Town Hall that when we avoid letting children learn about the difficult history of racism, “We deny our children truth — and they love truth, they desire truth. So we have an obligation to give them truth, and give them complexity.”

Kids are naturally interested in topics like fairness and equality, and there are plenty of stories from history that young people can relate to. Here are some family-friendly resources for learning more about the truth of race and racism in our country’s past, so that we can confront it in our present and future.

  • Watch Minnijean Brown-Trickey, a Sojourn to the Past on the NBC News Learn channel. Older kids will be interested in the story of Minnijean, who as a teenager in 1957 was one of nine students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn about her through the eyes of current high school students, and how she continues to engage students in civil rights history.

More ways to get kids talking about, and reflecting on, racism and racial healing

Besides history, there are many other ways to involve kids — and fellow parents — in ongoing conversations about race and racism. Families can use some of the resources below to get started.

  • How to talk to kids about anti-Asian racism: Since the Covid pandemic, anti-Asian hate has come into national focus — but it’s important to realize that anti-Asian racism is unfortunately nothing new in this country.
  • The National Day of Racial Healing website provides resources for learning more about the many root causes of racism, and poses thought-provoking questions about race to reflect on — with opportunities to share your response.
  • This Racial Healing Conversation Guide from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation offers helpful conversation guidelines and prompts for anyone engaging in intentional discussions about race and racism.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.