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.





Great article and I like how you pointed out ways to address the issue. A lot of people believe that racism is an issue of the past. A lot of people know that racism is alive or they choose to ignore it. I think the people that are most at harm here are Caucasians. It never fails, every semester there is someone in class that doesn't know about racism, that don’t know about the inequalities between minorities, that didn't know there was a racial gap, or that the color of your skin determined your opportunities. This in turn harms the “minorities.” Talking to children about racism is a hard task, especially if you don't fully understand it yourself. But I agree that it is an issue that needs to be addressed and spoken about. I have a five year old and she’s starting to talk about her friends in terms of color. Whenever she gets a new “white” friend she has to tell me they’re white. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I do, however, tell her that the color of their skin isn’t important. It’s about who they are as an individual and how they treat you. Racism will never be an easy topic, but it is a topic that everyone needs to be aware of.

The tittle of your article is what incited me to read it and the article you chose is very interesting. I like the fact that the author even gave potential solutions to help parents deal with the topic of racism with their children. Now a days children start to get exposed to racism at very early ages and it can be brought on from anything. In television there are some racist movies,ads, series or shows, movies, posters, other children, parents and so on. I agree with you that the best way to try and stop the spread of racism is by talking to younger children about it. By doing so, we will slowly start to have less racist people and comments and therefore slow down and eventually get rid of racism. The author of the article definitely has the right ideas, we as parents or teachers should not be afraid to tell children that there are people of different coloured skin and that all the stereotypes are not necessarily true. I agree with the fact that it should not be "hushed" over but instead talked about openly with children so that they understand that there are different people on earth and that it is not right to discriminate them just because they do not originate from the same country. If everyone starts to tell their child at an early age I believe that slowly racism will fade but this of course would require for everyone to participate which is why it might take some time. In order for it to stop however, some need to start acting now.

The title of you're article is what got my attention because it is absolutely true, just by you're title we know what you have to say is correct, children can not be blame for what they are not taught. Children see a lot of things and hear a lot of different things and they think it's okay to repeat it without really understanding the meaning or power of their words. Like you mention I believe it is important for parent to bring racism up because it is still happening and children need to understand to be able to not be racist. If children are just taught that it is something that happen it the past they might not acknowledge what they are doing if by accident they are being racist or saying they can't play with a friend because they are darker. It is wrong for a child to think that, as shown in disney movies as we've seen in class children learn the stereotypes of racism and it is wrong, and its a job parent to show that disney movies are movies, and in real life it's not the way it works, then the children will grow up to appreciate everyone and to understand race, and racism. I really liked the steps that you gave to parents I think it's a good guide and gives good first step if parents don't know how to approach their children. Here is another link that can help parents about how to teach children about racism.

This is a very good point you raise, its something that I didn’t think of until I read your article. I think about how I might teach my children about race one day; where would I start? It’s a subject that is kind of hard to discuss with a child, how long should we wait before we think they are old enough to have that talk? Just like the birds and the bees or with homosexuality. It’s hard to discuss a subject that in today’s society is not nearly as much of an issue so we tend to ignore them since they are not shoved in our faces. I think that it’s important to teach our children to love one another no matter what color you are or who you identify yourself as. In the case of identity, we should show to our children that being gay or straight shouldn’t make a difference in the way we perceive them. In my opinion what makes a person who they are is personality. We should teach children to understand that there is no difference between you and me physically, but how we act or behave is what we should be watching out for. If one is a gay man or a lesbian woman who are we to say that they are bad in any way. Many of the horrible dictators were either homophobic or racist. Yet people saw them as heroes or saviours, its ridiculous to think that just because one is not sexually attracted to the same thing you are or is born with a different skin tone makes then evil. People are very ignorant because no one taught them otherwise or were taught wrong. People are not born evil they are raise to be.

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