African american family members arrived at a weekend house

Source: Dimensions / Getty

Only four percent of campers identify as Black, according to The Matador Network. That’s a bigger problem than one might think. Summer camp provides an opportunity for growth and development in areas that serve children well into adulthood. At camp, kids learn about collaboration, problem solving and socialization. They learn to love time in the great outdoors and explore different types of physical activity. But we can be real: summer camp is anecdotally a white people thing. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And, unfortunately, the camps themselves might be to blame. Black children deserve to experience the magic of summer camp, but also need to feel comfortable and accepted at camp. So here’s what to look for when selecting a summer camp for your Black child.

 

Diversity And Inclusion Training

Woman with children playing ring toss game

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Has the staff undergone diversity and inclusion training? And has it been led by a reputable training organization with a proven track record of improving diversity and inclusion policies and cultures in other environments? Some camps will show you the materials that their staff had to study, in order to receive their diversity and inclusion training certificate.

 

Black Staff Members In Leadership Positions

Multi-ethnic children, teacher, field trip by ocean

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Having Black and BIPOC staff is a start, but it’s also important that children see Black staff members in leadership positions. If everyone at the top is white, then Black campers can feel that white people are in charge here – and those sentiments can trickle down to their peers, creating a hostile and even racist environment. It’s important that the campers see adults of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in positions of authority at the camp.

 

True Diversity In The Children

Summer camp including two down syndrome children

Source: kali9 / Getty

If your child will be one of only a few Black children among 100 white children, they can feel that the camp isn’t for them. It’s important that they see other children who look like them. However, it’s also important that they see a great mix of ethnic and racial backgrounds, so they don’t exclusively see other children who look like them. A truly diverse camp promotes the message that summer camp is for everybody – and that means * everybody *.

 

Ask About Story Time

Group of elementary children sitting in a circle on the grass while talking, playing together at a park. Outdoor classroom.

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Storytime is a large part of summer camp. Stories might be shared at the beginning of a physical activity to provide inspiration. Then there are stories shared at night around the campfire. Ask the leaders at the camp what stories are told. Do they contain main themes that would be applicable to everyone – not just white children? Do they depict Black characters who are complex, central and do not promote stereotypes? If they will show any movies at the camp, consider these same questions about the films.

 

Field Trips

Children, teacher at marine park, dolphin splashing

Source: kali9 / Getty

Some summer camps take the children on field trips. Even if the summer camp – between its activities, staff and other children – is a welcoming place for Black children, the field trip destinations might not be. Get clarity on all field trips in advance to ensure your child won’t go anywhere that they might feel excluded or uncomfortable.

 

Down To The Details

Camp Counsellors and Children Playing Tug of War at Summer Camp

Source: FatCamera / GettyA camp that is dedicated to inclusion will pay attention to the smallest of details. They won’t only have Band-Aids and bandages for white skin tone – but also for darker skin tones. These camps won’t only have white mannequins for safety demonstrations. They won’t only have photos of white figureheads and celebrities lining the hallway. And they will even make sure that every staff member is in control of the music throughout the course of camp so that the kids don’t just hear Top 40 pop. It’s those little things that make a big difference.

 

Do Some Online Digging

Multi-ethnic children and young adults at water park

Source: kali9 / Getty

Most summer camps have Yelp and Google reviews. Be sure to check these for any camp you’re considering. You can do a word search throughout the reviews for terms like “diverse” “inclusive” and even “racism.” If you see that an issue occurred, call the camp director personally and ask them to speak to how that was handled. If you see several complaints of racism or anti-inclusivity, that’s not the summer camp for your Black child.

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