Discover how to navigate bias and guide your children toward a future of genuine cultural understanding and allyship!

Join me for a vulnerable and honest conversation on how we can navigate bias, and nurture cultural and racial awareness and inclusivity in ourselves and our children with pediatric and clinical psychologist, Dr. Dana E. Crawford. Dr. Crawford is the developer of the Crawford Bias Reduction Theory & Training (CBRT), a systematic approach to reducing bias, prejudice, and racism, and she has recently opened pre-ordering for her newly released R.A.C.E. Cards aimed at helping foster open communication around issues of race.

In this episode, Dr. Crawford guides us on a journey of self-reflection, teaching about strategic vulnerability and the essential steps to reduce bias in our lives and in the way we raise our children. This episode promises to be a transformative experience, offering valuable insights that will stay with you long after the conversation ends.

Dr. Dana (00:00):

In a world of racism, in a world of bias, your children are at risk and your children are not safe just like mine. Instead, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable that we’re not going to feel safe, we’re not going to feel comfortable, but we can be competent and we can be committed.

Dr. Sarah (00:26):

Vulnerable, open and honest conversations are often the first step in challenging our perspectives and inspiring meaningful change. I am incredibly honored that Dr. Dana E. Crawford joined me for this episode to create a really safe space where we were able to unpack really complicated topics of prejudice and bias, all with an effort to create that kind of change. A bit about my guest, Dr. Crawford is a pediatric and clinical psychologist who developed The Crawford Bias Reduction Theory and training, which is a systematic approach to reducing bias, prejudices and racism. In today’s episode, we touch on the importance of awareness, addressing the fears that parents often have about discussing bias, and we emphasize the importance of creating a neutral, compassionate space for dialogue. And finally, we offer some really helpful and very straightforward tools that we can all use to challenge these beliefs and raise our children to celebrate and honor differences.


Hi, I am Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology, and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hello, I am super excited to welcome Dr. Dana Crawford to the podcast. Welcome. I’m so, so grateful for you to be here today.

Dr. Dana (02:16):

Thank you. I’m super excited to be here. It’s such a privilege to lean into these important topics.

Dr. Sarah (02:23):

I agree, and you are the person to talk with about this. I am really interested in what we’re going to help share with us today, and I was hoping you could just start off by letting people know a little bit about your work, how you got into this, and I’ll ask you lots more questions, but a little bit about what CBRT is.

Dr. Dana (02:46):

Yeah, it’s such a hard question because throughout my entire life it feels like I’ve been involved in this work from experiencing bias, prejudice and racism as a preschooler, quite honestly, as I go back and think through that, but in a formal way, I started down this journey when I was getting my doctorate and I was experiencing bias, prejudice and racism from my professors, from my patients in my community, and I really wanted to move beyond just talking about it and having some action steps that change hearts, minds, behaviors, policies and procedures. And so the Crawford Bias Reduction Theory and Training or CBRT for short is really a clinical approach to reducing the bias inside of us, between us and around us.

Dr. Sarah (03:46):

I think that’s really incredible because I think I’m very interested inside of us part first. Could you talk about that? That feels like a good place to start.

Dr. Dana (03:58):

Yeah, it’s such an interesting thing because when I first started my work, it was called culture-based counter transference. And in psychology, people have their views of counter transference that it’s all the ways that we project our stuff onto the families we work with, to the patients that we work with that aren’t always just about them, but our own history. And as I moved further into this work, I realized that just wasn’t therapists, it’s everyone. And I didn’t want to just focus on one aspect of bias like racism or sexism or queer phobia because I find that we’re more complex than that. Our biases are more nuanced. And so what the work is about inside of us is really understanding, quite frankly, in a really short way to say it, is that we are all infected with a socially transmitted disease, that we are spreading our biases to each other, and often we don’t even know it. And so it’s recognizing not the question, do I have bias, but how do I have bias? How does it show up and what do I do about it?

Dr. Sarah (05:10):

I like that because it almost, for lack of a better word, I am in a psychology headspace, but it de pathologizes bias. It’s like, Hey, we all have this. It’s neither good nor bad. It simply is. It can get expressed in ways that are harmful. It can also be expressed in ways that give us insight. How do we look at it with curiosity, but be willing to see that it’s there not be defended against the truth of the matter?

Dr. Dana (05:42):

I think you’re spot on with that. When we think about bias, right? It’s the thing that people are most willing to accept about themselves. When I say we all have racism, we all, oh, no, I’m not racist. Oh, I’m not a bigot. But when you say we all have bias, people are like, okay, that sounds a little less scary. And I think it’s what causes people to get so defensive about other words like racism or queer phobia or ableism. It’s because what they’re defending is that they’re a good person. I’m a good person. I’m not out here trying to harm anyone. And by leaning into the space of bias, we can say, yeah, you’re a great person, but your life experiences have informed how you are in the world. And the CBRT is really about asking the question of how does that show up for you? How does that impact your parenting? How does that impact the relationships that you have in your life?

Dr. Sarah (06:42):

And how do you help individuals? And I’m also thinking, especially in terms of parenting. So how do you help parents become more aware of bias? How do you help people define it and then be able to see it? What is the sort of mechanism by which we can become more aware?

Dr. Dana (07:03):

Yeah, it’s so many different pathways, and that’s why we say CBRT is for everyone because the entry point varies. So it might be that you’re at work and your job decides that they’re going to do a C-B-R-T training. And part of the CBRT training that some institutions engage in is an assessment. And in this assessment, what I look at is what are people’s values? So I value being a parent that exposes my children to many different diverse backgrounds, teaches my children to accept people. And for some parents, I hope are even, I want to be an ally, right? I’m a parent who teaches my child to be an ally. And then we look at what skills, what behaviors and what actions are happening and what is the gap between your values and your actions? And so through this assessment, we’re able to walk through very clinically and say, the measure that I use is called the intercultural development Inventory and walk through step-by-step and say, this is where your values are developmentally are in acceptance, and this is where your actions are in minimization.


You are minimizing, and there’s a 20 point gap between your values and your actions. So that’s one way. And then we start to talk about how are you going to close that gap? If you value being an ally as a parent and teaching your children, how are you doing that? Walk me through what it looks like. So a lot of times it may not even be defining the bias because I know that defining a thing doesn’t often lead to behavior because if it did, then we wouldn’t have things like substance abuse. We wouldn’t have often, we probably wouldn’t have as high rates of child abuse. We wouldn’t have the health issues that we have. It’s never been like, oh, I don’t understand health issues and that’s why I have weight issues. Often it’s not the definition that leads to behavior change, it’s the understanding and the action steps.


So I don’t spend a whole lot of time in my model defining terms. We really focus on what are your intentions and what impact do you have? So that’s one way, another way that people come through. And my work is just as a clinician that people may come in related to anxiety, and that anxiety as we start to unpack that in the clinical space is related to parenting and how is that showing up in your parenting? And it may be that I’m afraid that my child may be this, and then we discover biases through that journey. So it’s many pathways. Another way is I have a tool called Racial Awareness Conversations for Everyone, and they’re just prompts to help people start to have conversations about bias, prejudice, and racism. And I find that through those conversations, people discover a lot of things about themselves.

Dr. Sarah (09:53):

I really like that I am a person who tends to learn better experientially every time I’ve ever done a training or a workshop or taken a class, the things I remember the most are the things that I feel evoked, evoked emotion in me, had me practice something in vivo, helped me to physically shift a perspective in real time. And I think that’s so much better than just reading a definition of something. It’s not, there’s something about being involved in the process that can help us to actually be like, oh, it’s almost like that process of experiencing something allows us to actually see a bias instead of it being this abstract idea that we are like, oh, I don’t have that exactly. But then it, it’s a safe way to be like, oh, I have it and it’s safe for me to experience having it and reflecting on it. How do you help people feel safe in that process? It’s vulnerable. It’s delicate.

Dr. Dana (11:03):

Yeah, it is so vulnerable. It’s scary. I think that one of the things that has happened in our country is that people are really afraid of saying the wrong thing. They’re very afraid of cancel culture. They’re very afraid that their unintentional, unresolved intrapsychic boundaries. Biases will come up and be revealed. So I think it’s where we started is recognizing that everyone has bias, everyone has prejudice and racism. It’s just what’s your particular brand and how is it showing up? I also think that, so it’s unconditional, neutral regard. It’s not unconditional positive. We’re not saying, oh, you have racism and it’s fine. No, it’s not. We need to work through it. It’s not unconditionally negative. It’s not like, oh, you’re a terrible person because you accidentally called a black person by another black person’s name. So now you’re the most horrible person that ever existed. It’s neutral.


It’s a space of love, it’s a space of compassion, but it’s also a space of accountability and a belief that you have good intentions, and through that desire for good intentions, you are going to match some actions with those good intentions. So I think it’s that place that helps people feel safe, but I also say in a world of racism, in a world of bias, we aren’t actually safe. Your children are at risk and your children are not safe just like mine. And so we can’t really be safe and we can’t really be comfortable. Instead, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We have to recognize that we have the capacity to do hard things. You’ve done hard things throughout your entire life. And so it’s also holding that, that we’re not going to feel safe. We’re not going to feel comfortable, but we can be competent and we can be committed.

Dr. Sarah (13:18):

Yeah. It’s funny, as you were saying this, which is such a really, really helpful way of opening up someone’s ability to receive information, to learn something new, to break a current structure and add more information and rebuild something bigger. The way that you were describing that teaching made me think a lot about what we talk about when we’re helping a parent teach a child something. Anything in life, when a child is in the throes of a defensive, dysregulated, scared state or rage state, that’s not really, you can’t get a whole lot of information into their brains in that moment. We learn best when someone is able to hold space for us in that moment to see the good intention, to see the whole person, to not say like, oh, you’re a bad kid because you did this thing, but also not to say, well, everything goes hun, whatever you want.


And we don’t have any expectations of your behavior at all. Right? It’s such a good parallel, and I think any parent can relate to this bind of, I want to teach my child something, and I recognize that I have to create a learning environment for them, but I do need to teach them something. I have to help them understand what is acceptable and safe and not. So I think I appreciate that holding of those two things we can learn. We do need to feel safe to learn, and sometimes it means we have to do something different. We can’t just keep doing something. It feels comfortable.

Dr. Dana (15:08):

Exactly. Exactly. And I think that that has been where a lot of people get stuck, and so they do nothing. It’s so interesting because I found so many parents not touching the issues of culture because they don’t believe themselves to have that issue. So I’m not a racist, so I don’t necessarily need to teach my child about racism, especially if you are a white person. I’m not sexist, so I don’t need to teach my child about this thing. I’m not fat phobic, so I don’t need to teach my child about this thing. But it’s interesting because if we think about sexual abuse, you wouldn’t say, I don’t need to teach my child about this because I’m not, that you would prepare your child to live in a world that existed and you would prepare your child to be safe and to navigate and to advocate for themselves and to speak up and to reach out.


But often we leave kids alone to figure out the very complex issues of culture on their own. And I would dare say I would never want my child to have to learn about culture from the world. I’d rather them learn it at home. But when we don’t have the skills or the space to build, what do we say? Then we just kind of let the days roll by and we don’t address it until that one thing comes up unexpectedly at the dinner table that you’re a hundred percent unprepared for. And you’re like, what? My child would never, I can’t believe, well, when would they ever learn? And so it adds an intentionality to it that becomes really critical.

Dr. Sarah (16:50):

Yeah, I think that really illustrates this idea of you have a value, like you were saying, but our actions in alignment with, it’s like sometimes we have big blind spots to sort of recognizing if I don’t actively teach this stuff, talk about this stuff, create dialogue around this, someone else will. And it might be a message that is not aligned with my values, but the absence of me teaching something specific, we abdicate a lot of control in that way. In doing so, kind of move out of alignment with the value.

Dr. Dana (17:29):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think what has happened in recent years in parenting in work, what you do and other parents, consciousness generated experts, experts who are really inviting parents to have an intentionality, which is such a beautiful journey, I think that a lot of the cultural work has not been invited to that conversation. So what do you want your children to believe about the cultural identities that are represented in your home? So if you are a white person, what do you want your children to believe and understand about white people? What are those actual beliefs? Now, on the other hand, what do we want kids to know and think about their body? What do we want kids to know and think about discipline? What do we want? How do we want kids to feel about learning? We’ve answered those questions, and I think there are experts like yourself that have dug deep into that work and give lots of guidance for parents in that way.


But I don’t think we’ve even started to touch on the areas like I suggested related to culture. We haven’t asked those questions, and parents don’t even know what they want their kids to think and feel about their identities. Many parents are even afraid to say some of the words that I’ve shared, white black is it. They stutter over the terms and they can’t. And I remember when I was in grad school the first time in my master’s degree, and we were just moving from saying gay to lesbian, and then it became the alphabet soup where it was like LGBTQIA+, and now it’s like LGBTQIA+. I remember I was doing a training and I kind of stumbled and I was like LGBTQ. And I said, you know what? I don’t want to stumble over these words. I want them to flow very easily.


So then I practiced. I literally looked in the mirror and just kept saying, LGBTQIA+. So then my jaw would be practiced in these words. And I think about a few months ago, oh no, maybe has been a year time and covid has skewed my sense of time. My roommates are five and seven, the people that I live with, and I was talking with my daughter at the time, she was six. And we were watching this show Gabby Cat, and on Gabby Cat, they had these little dust bunnies and there were little small dust bunnies, maybe five little dust bunnies and two big dust bunnies. And my daughter, and I’m braiding her hair in the morning before school in little ponytails. And she’s like, I can tell who the mommy and daddy dust bunnies are because they’re bigger and the baby dust bunnies are little.


And she goes, well, maybe they’re not mommy and daddy dust bunnies. Maybe they’re mommy and mommy dust bunnies, or maybe they’re daddy and daddies, or they could be non-binary parent dust bunnies. I guess they’re just the grownups of the dust bunnies. And she just had this string of consciousness and I was just sitting there, do not get too excited because this is the work you do and holy guacamole, your life might have meaning right now. Maybe you wanted it parenting today, and I yes, your brain is already, your neural pathways are set up to question these biases in a way that my brain would’ve never, never. And I think about how did we get there? And we got there because when she was six months old, when she was 12 months old, I would say things like, these are the grownups, these are the mommies and mommies, these are the daddies and daddies. And it just became the language that we used. And then there was challenging in that and every element of dialogue. And so I think that’s what the critical component is when we’re going into our parenting mindfully in our cultural work is those little seeds that grow that you don’t even know. But it starts at a young age with that little newborn.

Dr. Sarah (21:37):

It does. And as you’re saying this, I think it’s such a beautiful story and I actually love stories. I think they really illustrate things that just explaining fall short, we can picture, I could picture you sitting in that room with your daughter, and I really felt that feeling of score, parenting win all this is a culmination of this effort. And you know what I was thinking as I was hearing you was like, and I’m a white woman. I’ve had that conversation with my kids before and it is harder, I’m aware of a bias that’s even just I’m aware of in the moment is that I have a harder time. I am more afraid if I have to be really honest, I don’t think I’m aware of it in the moment, but looking, reflecting on it, I get scared to have those same kinds of fluency, fluid conversations about race.


How do I talk to my white daughter about the teacher she has at school that she comes home and is referring to her skin color? And I’m like, I don’t have the fluency I realize. And so I avoid the conversations not because I think, oh, we don’t want to talk about that. I don’t feel confident in my fluency in it, and then I don’t want to say the wrong thing and then have her have the wrong thing in her narrative. And so I’m so aware that these are the kinds of areas that the parent have to first practice the fluency so I can have fluent conversations with my kids that flow just like I’m very comfortable being like mommy and mommy or all families come in different shapes and sizes. Where could I take this awareness and dive more into my own practice of fluency?

Dr. Dana (23:36):

Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that and just naming it. Part of the work that we do in CBRT is really recognizing that because of the ways that racism are so activating and race is so viscerally powerful that we clinch up that reactionary state. And in the work, I invite people to just stop. You don’t have to react, stop that process just like you do in your work, in your parent coaching, you stop and then you slow down and you ask, what is it about this that is so activating for me? What is it? What are the affective, what is it bringing up for me? And you named some of it like, I’m afraid, what are you afraid of? I’m afraid that I’m going to say the wrong thing to her and then she’s going to think the wrong thing. Okay, what else? What do you want her to think?


What is the wrong thing? What is actually the wrong thing that you’re worried that she might think? Right? And then I think once you start to answer those questions, you are already starting to build your own capacity there. So I need to be more fluid. This is how you’re going to become more fluid is doing that reflective work. But then there’s another element that you’re never going to arrive at a point. And I don’t know, maybe you will let me not tell you what your journey of growth is, but I don’t think any of us are ever going to arrive at the point where we’re a hundred percent fluid in every single racial issue on this planet, right? Because there’s always some new group, some new culture, some new issue, some new war that we’re just not skilled in. And so what do you do fundamentally as a parent when your child engages with a topic that you’re not fluid in?


What is your philosophy as a parent? And I don’t think your philosophy is ignored, right? It might be, Hey, you said something interesting there. I want to think about that more and I’m going to talk with you later about it. You want to just leave it, but it’s something about with race, we leave it and we don’t come back to it. So I invite parents in my work to really lean into that space of recall the skills you have and you know how to talk with your kid already about things you’re not comfortable with. You already know that skill and maybe some of us, depending on our parenting journey are still learning that skill, and that may be a skill we need to build, but how do you access that skill? And so if my child brings up something I’m not as comfortable with, one of the things that I believe in for me and with the families that I work with is strategic, vulnerability, strategic.


So I might say, wow, I don’t actually know a lot about this. Or Hey, I’m a bit confused about this. I think you and I might need to talk more about that. Or, Hey, we’re going to come back to this and talk more about it. So I’m going to name it. I’m going to say, mommy doesn’t always know. Or I might even say when you say that, I get a little bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure. And so some of it is modeling the naming of emotional for kids. These are all skills that we all have, but it’s something about when race comes, we’re like, oh, we have no skills. I have no skills. I don’t know what to do, but you do.

Dr. Sarah (26:48):

Yeah. And it’s funny, I was thinking along the lines too is like, where do I notice this also coming up? I was with my daughter this morning and she likes sometimes we’ll all be getting ready and I’ll be putting my makeup on. And she’s four and she likes to put makeup on too, but I give her some things. We just have fun. Then we wash her face. But I’m also like, oh, all this stuff comes up for me around am I teaching her that she’s not beautiful unless she wears makeup. And then do we have to have that conversation of you’re beautiful on the inside and the outside and Oh, I’m putting makeup on because my skin feels old, and then am I being ageist? And I don’t want her to think that being old is ugly and it’s like I feel sometimes I want to make things, teaching moments and everything, like anything and everything, I remember my daughter, so I felt very compelled in the moment to be like, you’re beautiful on the inside too.


Something along those lines. And she goes to me, she goes, mommy, can we not talk about this right now? And I realized in that moment that I was processing this anxiety I had in the moment about saying the right thing and teaching her the right thing. And you could transpose this onto any type of topic that’s tough to talk about that we’re not fluent in and how important it’s to be attuned to them in the moment. She didn’t want to have that conversation then and me lecturing her or even trying to make it fun, but just that was my need in that moment. I was addressing my own anxiety in the moment with her not actually teaching. And so I wonder if you could speak to that too, this idea of we have to do this internal reflection on what comes up for us. What do we notice our lack of fluency in? What do we notice that makes us anxious or makes us recognize, I got some figuring out to do, but then how do we find a way to help give that information, share that information with the kids, with our children in a way that’s attuned to them so they can be receptive to it as well?

Dr. Dana (29:02):

Yeah, it’s such a tight rope and on top of that, you’re sleep deprived and you’re just exhausted and all the things that can help parenting. So on the side of recognizing your own stuff, so CBRT has three core components. It’s awareness. So awareness of the socially transmitted disease that is bias and really all things related to it, understanding what is bias, what is racism, what is prejudice in a general way? The second is the investigation. How does it show up? What does it look like in myself around me in my relationships? And the last is reduction. And this is really how do we reduce the bias in that section? I use this acronym called let up and let up is really a step-by-step approach to recognizing your own stuff. So the L stands for listening, and what you’re listening for is not what your sweet little one is saying in that moment, but what you’re listening for is how am I activated?


What is my stuff? And what I’m hearing in in those moments that I’ve shared with my own daughter around beauty is that I want her to see herself as beautiful because honestly, I wish that when I was little, I always felt that way that internal beauty was the queen of the universe, but the reality is pretty privilege does exist and that’s a real thing. And I don’t want to teach my daughter that that’s not a reality in this world. That the world is nicer often to people who have pretty privilege. And so in that teaching moment, really what I’m trying to do is liberate her from the journey of all the pressure it means to be a woman and all of the world and things that we have to deal with, but it’s true. And so am I really teaching her a falsehood? So I haven’t even unpacked that.


And likely this conversation is happening at seven o’clock in the morning to get to work. So like, my goodness, I got a journal tonight. So we’re listening for our own stuff. And then the E of let up is really about empathy, and it’s not empathy for your sweet 4-year-old, it’s empathy for yourself and that little girl and that teenager and that woman and that now youthful clinging to I got to buy all these creams to preserve my age and look, I got to look 40 if I’m 60. If I’m 60, I got to look 30. All of that stuff. And just empathy for it just sucks. And my child is inheriting a world that in some ways just sucks and that will be our shared hurt together and I’m going to hold it and I’m going to be honest about it and I can’t liberate her from that.


And so then the T is what do you say? Right? That’s talk. And the talk is where you get to the point of where she’s like, mommy, nobody wants to hear that. Can I just get the glitter eyeshadow? I don’t need all of that. That’s the moment when she’s like, not right now, can I please put this blush on my cheek? Right? That’s the tea. And so the tea is about setting a priority when you’re talking is my priority to give information. So I’m going to point out that was not what was called for in that moment. Maybe my tea is to preserve the relationship and to validate and to connect. So I’m going to call in, that’s what it’s calling for in this moment. And then sometimes it’s a firm line where it has to do with integrity values. So I am going to call it out. And there’s not a talk about later. That’s language we don’t use.


That’s not language that we use in this family. It’s bullying and it’s harmful. And when we’re bullying people related to their race, that’s called racism. And we don’t do that in this home or in this family. So I don’t care if you’re saying right now, I don’t need a lecture, mom, you getting this lecture right now when it comes to this, right? So that’s a call out. The you is for unconditional neutral regard and the piece for the plan that this one conversation is not going to solve all of my parenting intercultural teaching, and I have an entire lifetime of teaching and learning that I’m going to do with my child in collaboration. And so that’s the P that I’m going to come back to it. So right now, I may have caught in and build in the relationship and in the plan, I need to think about this a little bit more and how do I strategically introduce her to pretty privilege and talk through that and all of those things. And it may not be at four, may be at six or eight or 12 or probably at all those points.

Dr. Sarah (33:49):

Right? Yes. That’s so helpful and I really appreciate that acronym because it’s, and I like that it’s nuanced. Each of those points has, you have to take context and bandwidth and all these variables into the moment to be able to say, how do I take this? The calling out, calling in. That resonates with me a lot in that moment had she been like, oh, you’re ugly. That makeup looks, you need makeup because you are ugly and old, which I could see her saying in a very innocent way. There’s that neutral regard, right? Unconditional, neutral regard.


And I would say when you talk to me that way, if you use words like that, that’s hurtful and that’s not aligned with the values in our family, we have to find a different way to communicate what your question is or what you’re wondering about or what you’re trying to tell me. I think there’s a different question in there, and I like this idea of thinking about taking it with you at the end and being like, I’m, I’m going to create a plan. That plan is so critical. And parenthood, I think we can always relate to this. We always have pressure in the moment to parent in the moment, but this permission to say, I can parent and by parent I really mean teach, but or guide over a series of interactions over time, I can collect my thoughts, I can develop a plan, I can think of optimal ways to introduce these ideas in optimal moments, which then got me thinking too.


You were saying you talk about it at four or maybe at six or maybe it’s, I’d imagine in an ideal world, not only are we talking about at all those points, but it’s evolving. We’re constructing a conversation that continues to grow and evolve and get more complex as we do it, but we can’t start it. The complexity if we don’t start with sort of a play, almost like a play a baseline. Kids learn first through play and then they construct on that play to make those symbolic things to become more concrete, more, what’s the word? Infuse, play with more symbolic meaning and then be able to interpret that symbolic meaning to mean something very true and very crystallized about whatever it is we’re learning about.

Dr. Dana (36:26):

Absolutely. And I think the use of play and culture is such a rich, wonderful opportunity to introduce cultural concepts to kids. I think dolls, there’ve been so many dolls studies that have been done. And for me as a parent, I’m always checking in. So the famous doll study that has been replicated so many times is where you have two dolls, one is white and one is black. And you ask, who’s the good doll? Who’s the bad doll? And what they have seen in this study that has been replicated since the fifties, it was really critical. And the case for integrating schools is that we see that a lot of times children with darker skin equate the dark doll as the bad doll, but we also see white children or children with lighter skin that also equate the black doll as the bad doll. And so I think it’s really crucial that we’re introducing the conversations of culture and beauty and acceptance and love through our play.


So even at a very young age, it becomes so critical that our children are exposed to toys and books of characters that they love that don’t look like them. And then for the parent to assign a joy with that doll, with that toy, an approval of that doll and that toy that then the child takes as their own. And I think that sometimes because grandparents are buying presents, whomever are giving gifts, they don’t think to expose children in that way. I think about, I was just speaking with someone and they were like, all of my kid is in a white world. My friends are white. I go to work and it’s white. I have one black friend. We’re not exposed to different cultures and her children are young, six months toddler. And I said, well, what do your books look like in your house and how do you read those books?


And what are the decorations that you have in your home? It was just Christmas. If you celebrate Christmas, did you have a black Santa? Right? So do you have things that don’t center whiteness in your world? And for me as a black parent, it is so easy to have white centered things in my home because that’s what’s at the store. So I have to very intentionally choose to expose my children to a world where they are the center because they live in a world that they’re not. So this year, I remember we were decorating for Christmas and I said, we have to have black Santas. And it was such a thing that I had two weeks in advance order black Santa Christmas lights because we had all these Christmas lights and there were only white Santa. And I was like, where do you get, luckily I got some in everyone in the neighborhood and I put ’em outside decorated.


And whenever we were outside, I live in New York and Harlem, we have stoops. And whenever I was outside, the kids would say, black Santa and I live in Harlem, so we should have a black Santa. It looks like the people who live here. And I think about those subtle things that when my daughter has friends that come to our house that look different from her, they see that, right? It’s representation. And I think so many times we don’t think those things matter for kids, but it’s so crucial that they are seeing a world that doesn’t only look like them.

Dr. Sarah (39:53):

Yeah, there’s a video that I saw and I was literally brought to tears in watching this video, but it was a video when Disney came out with the Little Mermaid, the new live action Little Mermaid. And the woman who plays Ariel is black. And there was a video of little girls of color watching the preview for the movie, and it was parents filming them on their iPhone. But as soon as there’s all this waves, you don’t see tails. And then there’s the moment where you see her face and the girls literally, I’m going to cry. Just even think it was so moving. And I think it really shows is how profound it is for a child to see that. And it wasn’t just that they saw Ariel as a woman that looked like them, but that they knew that that was special, that that was unusual, that that was the first time because they weren’t just excited. They were crying, they were so moved. It was such a beautiful movie. I think that we should find the link to that and put it in the show description, but it just says how much these kids need this.

Dr. Dana (41:11):

And I think that what was so powerful about that movie. So my kids and I, we dressed up, so my daughter and I, we wore red wigs and my son dressed up as King Titan, so he can have an identity point in that. And we went to the movies and I remember being on the train and people seeing us dressed up to go see The Little Mermaid. And it was such a beautiful moment as the Little Mermaid was one of my favorite movies. I mean, we have a lot of issues we can unpack about The Little Mermaid. We’re not going to do all of that. But I love the movie itself as a kid growing up. And I remember seeing the scene where she sings the song under this, all of that. And I didn’t expect to cry myself as an adult. The little girl in me needed did the representation.


But I think what that was moving, and that was such a powerful moment, but I think what was so powerful when I think about my cross-cultural friendships were my white friends who also whose daughters dressed up as the Little Mermaid and went to see the movie too, that it wasn’t a black movie, that it was princesses. And I think about what my daughter has dressed up as Elsa, and there’s not a thing there. And I have found that sometimes in these beautiful moments of representation for children of all races, not just black children, but all children of color, that sometimes my white colleagues and friends don’t embrace the world in the same way that my daughter and other people of color are automatically integrated into this other world that centers whiteness. And so I think it was so powerful to see my white friends kids also dress up as a little me. And that’s the part that I mean in representation in play, is that it’s not like, Hey, your black friend who’s at school, she gets a mermaid now, but we all have a mermaid now. It’s a new Disney princess for everyone. And I think that’s the power, and that’s the thing that we are striving to teach our children.

Dr. Sarah (43:22):

I think that’s so beautiful and so true. We are, and I think Disney, we can always talk about Disney being, it’s got its foibles for sure, right? Of course. But there’s something kind of magical about the ability to play every character that we’re just princesses or we’re just people and we all have very different experiences in this world and in play. How do we make it safe for kids to practice stepping in the shoes of another person and having that be a joyful experience, having that be something that everybody celebrates without even really having as a grownups to name it specifically the idea of offering opportunities to play in this diverse and rich culturally vibrant way and not have it be, oh, we’re going to do this today. It doesn’t live in a box that we try pull out every once in a while, right? It’s like, how do we make it more about just the way we talk about everything, the time? And I think that does come with fluidity and practice and confidence and stumbling and being willing to stumble and saying it again so that it feels less awkward the next time. And I think that’s a good reminder that kids seem to really know how to do this better than grownups do.

Dr. Dana (44:52):

Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful thing. I think every generation around cultural stuff tends to be a little bit more advanced than the previous, I hope. I don’t know, looking at the world these days, sometimes I feel like we take two steps, 10 steps backwards. But I think the guiding principle that I invite people to anchor themselves in is that there’s never going to be a place in this world that I’m okay with someone else being in the position to teach my child around cultural things. They will won’t hear it for the first time outside of our home. Similar to you never want to hear someone else tell you about your child. You want to be the first one. Don’t let someone else tell me, my child has whatever going on. I want to be the first one to know. And it’s the same. I want to be the first one to expose, teach my child. And no matter how challenging it is, it’s my job to be the first line of exposure and knowledge and dialogue and discomfort. Be uncomfortable at home, not at school for the first time.

Dr. Sarah (46:00):

Yes. I think that’s so helpful to, that’s a very good anchoring principle. If people want to learn more about the work that you do, if they want to find ways to bring this CBRT training into their place of work, or if it’s a self-study, how can people follow you, follow your work, get more information on becoming more aware of these trainings?

Dr. Dana (46:27):

So the first step is finding me on these internet streets cbrtforeveryone.com. It has a beautiful, there’s so much information. It’s a great website. I’m so proud of how my team has engaged with this website. Someone told me recently when they’re just having a bad day, they just go to cbrtforeveryone.com and it just makes them feel good. But on the website, there’s a section called CBRT for Kids, and I have resources and podcasts and articles, and I continue to build out that space. So that’s a great space there. If you’re interested in CBRT coming to your organization, all of our contact information is there and the products that we offer. The thing that I’m really excited about right now is I have a discussion deck. It’s called R.A.C.E Cards or Racial Awareness Conversations for Everyone that is formally being released March 12th, but it’s available right now for pre-order, and it’s just 48 questions to get the conversation started. Questions like how do you identify yourself culturally, racially, ethnically? Say those words, practice talking about racism with a family member. Do that now. Role play it, right? So it’s just discussion prompts because I find so many times people say, I just don’t know how to start the conversation. And so the race cards are to help people start the conversation and the website, cbrtforeveryone.com can get you all of the resources you need.

Dr. Sarah (47:58):

That’s amazing. Well, we will link all that in the show notes, in the show description so people can find it. And thank you. I’m going to be definitely looking at those cards. I’m really excited they can be. I think they’ll be a really fun thing to bring into our home.

Dr. Dana (48:11):

Yeah, people have really loved, and I think it’s a wonderful resource to journal for yourself or to have a conversation or even at work, I’ve seen people use ’em at work retreats, so they’re flexible carts. And thank you very much for having me and for leaning into this really important conversation.

Dr. Sarah (48:34):Thank you. If you enjoyed listening to this conversation, I want to hear from you, share your thoughts and your feedback with me by scrolling down to the ratings and review section on your Apple Podcasts app or whatever app you’re listening on. And let me know what you think of this episode or the show in general. Your support means the absolute world to me, and just a simple tap of five stars can make a real impact and how the show gets reached by parents everywhere. So thank you so much for listening and don’t be a stranger.

182. Raising conscious kids: A thoughtful exploration of bias, cultural identity, and diversity with Dr. Dana E. Crawford