Making little racists


So I casually enter the school gates the other day to pick up Maddi. I am approached by a cute little girl of mixed race. ‘Maddi’s dad, Maddi’s dad, Maddi doesn’t want to play with me… and she hit me.’ Okay, wasn’t expecting this. I respond with a polite, ‘Really? I’ll talk to her about it.’

I ask her about it in the car: ‘So Mad, what’s up with you not playing with Zebra girl? And what’s with the hitting?’ Silence, grumpy face, and we’re firmly into sulk mode. But I persist. Eventually after about 10 minutes of nagging ‘But, she hits me too, and I tell her I don’t want to play with her, but she doesn’t listen.’

‘Okay, well if you don’t like her you don’t have to play with her, but hitting is not allowed, even if she did it first, you tell teacher first, okay?’

But something’s niggling in the back of my mind, I feel it in my bones that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Two days later, same thing ‘Maddi’s dad, Maddi’s dad,’ the little tittle-tat meets me at the gate.

Fast forward to the car. ‘Mad, why don’t you want to play with the Zebra?’ This time she giggles and laughingly says ‘because I can’t play with brown children, I can only play with white children.’ WTF? What did you just say? OMG my 4-year-old is a raving racist!

Instead, I don’t react, knowing that to get to the bottom of this, I need to be super cool. ‘Don’t talk out of your bottom Mad, that’s just crap, you play with several other brown kids all the time, not to mention the fact that half of your extended family’s brown and I’ve never heard you complain about it before, and have you never noticed before that I’m brown too?’

My tone is calm, conversational, almost funny. She’s laughing her cute little head off now. ‘Yes Dad, but you’re my Dad, and I love you.’

‘Well exactly, so don’t give me this crap. Did you come up with this on your own or did one of your little friends suggest it.’ The enemy retreats back into sulk mode. And I’m thinking, shite, I was so close to getting her to confess. Luckily fate intervenes and her favourite song comes on the radio. We sing along and the mood is lifted.

I move in for the kill. ‘So this was your idea was it, not to play with brown children?’ ‘Nope, Joanna (not her real name) suggested it, she said her mom said it wasn’t cool to play with brown children.’

‘Oh, I see, and you just blindly go along with what she says do you?’ No response. ‘Who’s the boss of you?” No response. ‘Ahem?’

‘You are, Dad.’

‘And who knows everything about everything, even better than your teachers?’

‘You do, Dad.’

‘Right, so listen up, Joanna’s wrong and her parents are wrong, okay. You can play with anyone you like. Next time she suggests that you only play with white kids you tell her I said it’s wrong and if she insists, then I don’t think you should play with her anymore. Do you understand what I’m saying?’

‘Yes, Dad.’

‘That’s my girl!’

I make sure she actually does understand by asking her randomly over the next couple of hours and in the morning on our way to school. Next day I fetch Mad and she’s playing up a storm with Zebra girl. Joanna’s nowhere near them.

Mission accomplished? Should I have brought it to the attention of the school? Should I have been a racial drama queen and thrown my toys? I was just amazed that this still happens. What kind of person actually makes a point of telling their children not to play with other children because of the colour of their skin?

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

What can be done to solve the problem of racism being perpetuated onto children?

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