Children Can Be Racist When Racism is Misunderstood
by laeti.y.felix on October 28, 2014 - 5:19pm
In the article called “Talking to Small Children About Race” by Anne Theriault, really hits home to many families across the nation. Many parents either don’t see or understand that racism is still an issue, or parents never truly get to sit down with their children and have a good long talk about what it (race) is because they just don’t know how. There still a larger majority of parents, according to this article, who play the ‘colour blindness’ card. Colour blindness is when someone does not think that people are necessarily different colours, but they think that everyone in the world is the same skin colour but just different shades (inadvertently sweeping the racism issue under the rug).
I, myself, have fallen under the umbrella of individuals who never truly had the ‘racial talk’ with my parents as a young child. I am a biracial individual; one of my parents is Chinese and my other parent is Haitian. In a sense, I think they felt like because we live in a progressive place (North America), and they have never really fallen victim to racism while living here, I would have the same luck. Unfortunately though, I have not had the same kind of experiences. When I was a young child, I knew people picked on me because I was different in skin colour and I didn’t understand why. I didn’t even know about the term ‘racism’ until I reached my teen years. But all along, I knew that it was not right to tease or hurt someone because of their skin colour.
Fortunately for Theriault, her young son began the conversation by saying how he and his friends from daycare all look different in skin colour and hair colour. It had probably made things less intimidating for her, rather than trying to conjure up the conversation herself. But for the parents who still do not know how to approach their children and to explain to them what racism is and how many races and ethnicities are in the world, she gives these five tips and activities that could be done together with parents and their children:
1. Take the family to different cultural events.
There are many cultural festivals that can be attended across Canada that can positively expose children to different ethnicities. There are festivals like the Toronto African Film and Music Festival (in Toronto, Ontario), Mosaic A Festival of Cultures (in Regina, Saskatchewan), or Caribbean Days Festival (in North Vancouver). Bringing the family to any cultural festivals such as these may probe the minds of the young children and may entice the children to ask their parents about different people and ethnicities from around the world.
2. Teach children that everyone in the world is different, and that being different is always a good thing.
Children need to learn that having differences in race, ethnicity and culture is a good thing and can be an exciting thing as well. We can continually learn new things if we were all different, but if everyone in the world was the same, it would not be very fun. Despite all our differences, we are all the same. Theriault emphasizes though that there should be a clear distinction between being equal and being the same.
3. Bring Diversity to the children’s everyday lives.
Parents can do this by doing simple things, like reading them books with a diverse amount of people in it or buying dolls of a visible minority group.
4. Encourage the children to be vocal about when they see racism happening.
Parents should teach children to say things like, “That is not nice to say.” or “Why did you do that?” when they see a racist act happening. This kind of behaviour may let the enabler of racism question why truly they did what they did.
5. Let children be curious.
Children are still trying to understand what racism fully is. They may not have all the answers in the beginning. So don’t discourage children from asking questions, and answer them whenever they do ask a question.