Parents would like to believe that their child is naive when it comes to issues of race, but research seems to prove that this is actually not the case.
International researchers have been studying the development of racial and ethnic biases in children for a while.
A study has found that by just a few months old babies already prefer people who look like them. This is mainly because they find themselves surrounded by people who look the same way.
In one of the studies, as reported by EmbraceRace, researchers found that by age five, children of colour do not show preference toward their own racial group in comparison with white children.
On the other hand, they also revealed, white kids remain strongly biased in favor of whiteness. At this age they start to show many of the same implicit racial attitudes that adults hold.
This teaches them to associate with certain groups and value certain people more than others.
However, all is not lost.
It is possible to dismantle these racial biases.
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1. The earlier you start, the better
Start telling your child from a young age that it’s perfectly fine to notice skin color and speak about race.
Encourage them to ask questions, share observations and experiences, and be respectfully curious about race.
2. Set a good example to your child
How you respond to race will have a big impact on your child. If they do not attend a diverse school you should consider enrolling them in activities like sports with diverse team members.
Choose books, toys, and movies that include people of different races and ethnic groups.
Visit museums with exhibits about a range of cultures and religions.
3. Know yourself
It is important that you talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family strongly identify with.
Talk about how they contributed to your being and acknowledge the less flattering parts of those histories as well.
Tell stories about the challenges your family, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have faced and have overcome.
4. Respect other people and their histories
It is important to study and talk about the histories and experiences of all racial groups.
There is more diversity within racial groups than across them, and teaching your children about our unique South African cultures and identities is a good place to start.
5. Transparency is key
Children are good at noticing patterns, including racial patterns. Help them make sense of those patterns, and recognize that bigotry and oppression are sometimes a big part of those explanations.
It is important to be as honest and open with them as you possibly can.
Be sure your child knows that the struggle for racial fairness is still taking place and that your family has a role to play.
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