You’d think that after any history lesson about apartheid and previous struggles we’d have a better understanding of the negative connotations associated with certain words, phrases and ideas.
So far, in our new year, not a day has gone by without the mention of someone who’s made an ill-informed comment, giving a strong impression that that person may as well have been living under a rock with no means to education or access to public news.
Have lessons been learnt?
The news is filled with recent events to do with social media, racism and hate speech. It’s obvious that despite all the lessons learnt from our country’s history, racism is still a clear problem and many of us find ourselves questioning why we’re still living amongst it.
At present the amount of people still using the "k" word is directly proportionate to the amount of people who think that all "umlungus" are racist.
When you hear about a young boy who was asked to leave a pool area because of the colour of his skin you wonder what sort of example it sets to other children.
It starts with our children
It brings me to the idea that perhaps we’re not teaching our children enough about what our society considers right or wrong, what will get you into trouble and more importantly; why something could be considered wrong in the first place.
Discussing racism with your kids is no easy task, but in this day and age it should no longer be something we as parents are too afraid to do.
At birth the innocence of children doesn't allow for natural prejudices or judgements on others. In other words, children are not born racist. As a child grows certain feelings and connotations are formed through what they are exposed to and what (or who) they are influenced by at a young age.
Parents are at the forefront of the development of a child's mind, giving a parent the opportunity to teach, enlighten and ultimately pave the way for a child to develop his/her own feelings through educated and informed guidance.
Don't be afraid to bring it up
At some point you might hear your child express an idea that could be considered offensive. Or perhaps they might use a word that constitutes as hate speech. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your child meant nothing by it and brush it off, hoping they'll never say it again. Tell your child "that is not a nice thing to say to someone" and explain why.
I'm a firm believer that if all parents put in a little more effort into educating (without influencing) their children about our country's history, knowing what is right and what is wrong will come naturally to our children later on.
If we make a concerted effort to explain how and why we don't use certain words or judge a person by the colour of their skin, freedom of speech will be less likely to infringe on the borders of hate speech.
As uncomfortable as it may be for you to discuss race with your children, embrace the opportunity to be an "anti-racist" parent (no matter what race you are) by raising a generation of "anti-racist" children for our country.
How do you discuss racism with your children? Send us your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.