Why I should be talking to my children about Racism!

A few weeks ago, my younger daughter Toni, came home and very casually told us about an incident that occurred in school with a girl she occasionally played with. She explained that the girl had told her she didn’t want to be friends with her anymore because she was black and was a Christian.

As she relayed the conversation to us, I could feel my blood boiling and hair raised at the back of my neck.

She noticed and said to me “Mum I took care of it”.

I quickly replied, “how do you mean Mama?”

wondering what she meant by she took care of it.

She responded, saying

“I told her that I was proud to be black and as a Christian, I didn’t hate her for what she said because the bible teaches me to love everyone. I told her what she said was racist, and it was mean not to like people just because of the colour of their skin or because they were Christians”.

I was proud to be black and as a Christian: (Courtesy: Dreamstime )

I beamed with pride, but it quickly dawned on me that this conversation had occurred between two 6-year-olds.

The child in question was Indian and practised Hinduism. Bias had occurred on two levels- race and religion but what was sad about this was that it was from a child. Sad but not surprising.

Although I was proud that she had been able to articulate her experience in this way, it just reinforced my belief that educating children from a young age about social issues such as race and religion was now a requirement to eradicate the very thing that it was set up to perpetuate which was division, discrimination, and social oppression.

I admit that having these conversations with our children was not an easy task. It’s a very unsettling feeling of exposing them to the reality that life isn’t a bed of roses after all and that it was possible for people not to like you simply because of your skin tone. What’s worse is that opportunities are not equitable due to that very reason no matter how hard you worked or your natural abilities.

According to a UNICEF article, I read recently, emphasised the importance of having these conversations with children from a very young age.
The article states that “Babies notice physical differences, including skin colour, from as early as 6 months. Studies have shown that by age 5, children can show signs of racial bias, such as treating people from one racial group more favourably than the other. Ignoring or avoiding the topic isn’t protecting children, it’s leaving them exposed to bias that exists wherever we live. Children who encounter racism can be left feeling lost while trying to understand why they are being treated a certain way, which in turn can impact their long-term development and well-being.” https://www.unicef.org/parenting/talking-to-your-kids-about-racism.

How sad is it that a child as young as 5 is able to display racial bias! It is evident that the issue is deeply embedded in societal norms that condition us from a very young age to perceive race as the basis for privilege and superiority.

My argument though, is that educating children about these issues shouldn’t only come from black families to their children, in fact for the narrative to change, all families regardless of race need to educate themselves and their children. It serves everyone equally when we can all cohabit in a world where skin colour is no longer a reason for hate and discrimination.

If recent events have taught us anything, it is that the world will be better off with less hate in it. Let us start these conversations at home and educate our children from a place of love and not hate. The goal is to raise a generation of forward-thinking individuals who will go on and change the narrative.

What’s important to note is that regardless of age, it is possible to spark the minds of children either positively or negatively and we are their first and best teachers they will ever look up to and learn from. It definitely starts from the home, one child at a time.

Every now and again, there is a celebration of the first black person’s achievement which gives me hope for the future that perhaps we can dream of a world where opportunities are available to all, based not on tokenism, but rather on a genuine recognition of talent and hard work.

We now celebrate the first black & female Vice President of the United States of America. Isn’t it just amazing? My hope is that we can get to a place where we aren’t celebrating people for their achievements based on their skin colour, but purely because they earned the right to be there.

Kamala Harris: Pace Setter. (Image Source: White House )

“Remember “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced”.

James Baldwin.

One thing is certain, it is no longer okay to be quiet on these issues.

If you enjoyed reading this then please feel free to like, share and comment. Would love to hear about your experiences or even resources you have come across on this topic and would love to share.

8 thoughts on “Why I should be talking to my children about Racism!”

  1. 3 gbosas to Toni. Welldone once again Pam, another lovely writeup. We raise our girls to be confident in their brown skin and afro hair. We tell them people might treat them differently because of their skin colour, but they should not retaliate with hate. We know that racism is not a caucasian to brown skin, but could be the other way round. Their confidence should be in Christ, and they should always stand up tall.

    We then see that what anyone can be taught to hate, imagine a 6years old. That could just be from her hearing the conversations of her parents. This also should be a warning to us, that we should be mindful of our words and actions, especially in front of our children.

  2. Awesome write up Sis. I’m so proud of your daughters response. This is absolutely true. We need to talk more about this and raise the awareness around us.

  3. Mixed feelings about this. Immense pride in Toni, such a wonderful and grown up response. She is already a champion and wonderful person.

    Then sadness/fear that 6 year olds are having this conversation. Hope for a time when there will be no firsts and people will simply be People.

    Also a key thing to teach kids is never to see themselves as the victim but never be afraid to stand up for themselves.

  4. Thanks so much for this Pam. Wow!!! well done Toni for speaking your truth. It’s important for our children to feel confident about who they are from a young age.

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