When is the right time to teach children about racial inequality?

Like many other important life lessons, racism is one that makes for a difficult conversation with children. Nevertheless, it’s a vital one that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet – especially as children grow up and begin to ask questions. While racism has no place in society, attitudes and prejudices still exist today throughout institutions. That’s why we have teamed up with private school, Taunton School, to create this collaborative piece to highlight the right time to teach children about racial inequality and provide tips as to how you can do it.

From as young as 6 months old, children can see skin colour. By the age of 5, they can demonstrate racial bias and treat others differently according to the colour of their skin and ethnic differences. Talking about racism with your child at an early age may feel uncomfortable as you want to protect them. However, ignoring it doesn’t protect anyone as it only creates confusion when they come across it. Doing so will prepare and help them to deal with it better. This should be dealt with age-appropriately and taught to all children to tackle the racial biases that exist. Below are the steps that you should take to do this.

By 5 Years Old

By the age of 5 your child may start to ask questions about skin colour and why people look the way they do. When they do, take the opportunity to reflect on how unique we all are as people and how amazing that is. That will help them to celebrate differences instead of forming racial bias. Children at this age will also understand fairness. Explain that everyone deserves respect and should be treated equally.

From 6 to 11

Between these ages their curiosity will grow. They’ll begin to question what they see in the media and what they hear. For example, they may see certain ethnic groups portrayed with racial stereotypes. Discover what they know and their thoughts so that you can have an open discussion.

Teenage Years

When your child turns into a teen, they will have stronger emotions and be able to get their head around more complex themes. They’ll also have access to social media and unfiltered views which can influence theirs. Speak to your child about this and continue the dialogue to see what their take is. Educate them on the different forms of racism that exist and how they can contribute to making the world a better place. That might be to stand up for their peers, sign petitions and educate themselves about other cultures.

What Forms of Racism Are There?

Institutional Racism – While progress has been made, there are many discriminatory policies and procedures in society that disproportionately affect Black, Asian and ethnic minorities. The systems that this usually involves are the healthcare system, schools, justice system, and levels of government.

Microaggressions – Unlike obvious and overt racism, this form of racism is harder to detect as it presents itself in the form of jokes, humiliation, and other harmful attitudes. It is just as damaging and equally important to teach children about.

Everyday Racism – Everyday racism is similar to institutional racism in the sense that it concerns the racist behaviours that are deep-rooted and overlooked in society. A person on the receiving end may feel that they are being racially judged. This can either be conscious or unconscious.

Internalised Racism – This is a response to colonialism and everyday racism where the belief of inferiority becomes accepted and a part of a person’s belief system. As a result, they show self-hatred and abuse towards their own ethnic group.

How to Respond to Racism

While the world may not be a fair place at times, it’s up to us to change it. It’s important to remind children that you can’t fight hate with hate and that often people hold the views that they do because of ignorance and a lack of understanding. The more education on racial equity available at a young age, the more that we can do to advance it.

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