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to think DD is a bit racist?

(58 Posts)
msjones80 Tue 26-Mar-13 12:48:38

Since she was 3, approx and started going to nursery, she started saying that she didn't like black girls etc. Wouldn't say why - just that she didn't like them, in general. I though it was weird and upsetting but didn't know what to do. So I made sure she knew I have friends of all colours and backgrounds, etc. Now she's 5, and still refers to my friend "X" as "my black friend", which I correct everytime. She doesn't want to hang around with black children in her class or in the playground, although she's polite. Seems to be ok with Asians though, has told me she wants to be Chinese. I am really puzzled, don't know where she gets it from. We don't have a TV and my family is absolutely not racist.

As with many crazy things kids say, I try not to make a huge deal out of it and just explain things calmly. But just yesterday night I ordered her a doll and I told her this morning, and the first thing she asked was if it was black. Gah. "Little Hitler", I thought. "No, it's blonde with blue eyes, completely Aryan...".

Maybe that's the problem, maybe I should get her a black doll?
How can children be naturally racist? Have you got any tips, and by the way AIBU or is this a normal thing?

Sparklyboots Tue 26-Mar-13 20:26:51

Just read about this in Nurture Shock. There's a chapter on children self-segregating on the basis of race, and reports of research on why that would be, especially in the case where (particularly) white parents were liberal and believed in racial equality. The nub of it is that (1) children will self-segregate around any clear identity - so children given red, green or blue t-shirts will, after a week wherein no reference is made to the t-shirts or their 'meaning' by any adult, children when questioned will be more likely to say people wearing their t-shirt colour are cleverer, strongest, best, etc. (2) this tendency can only be addressed when parents spend time being explicit about their values - i.e. by saying, 'black people are equally clever, generous and interesting as white people' rather than saying things in which values are implied, e.g. 'we're all equal'. (3) that black and ethnic minority parents are more likely to talk explicitly about race - in order to prepare their children and pre-arm them as it were, which means that ethnic minority children are more likely to have positive views of people of other racial descent; (4) that white parents are more likely to be uncomfortable talking explicitly about race and erroneously believe that drawing any attention to it will produce racism whereas in fact, it must be explicitly discussed in order to prevent racism.

unlucky83 Tue 26-Mar-13 20:45:33

Kitchenandjumble - sorry couldn't not comment on that ....
I worked at an inner London school (approx 15 yrs ago) - completely mixed races (Black, white, asian, chinese) in every class...in general all integrated well - no real bullying/discrimination..but a couple of things were said that I was shock about.
6-7 year olds in gym - a couple of black girls wouldn't let a white girl play 'monkeys' on the bars because she wasn't black...another mixed race (black and white) girl wanted to play too and they wouldn't let her because she wasn't 'all black'. ( I reported this to the class teacher -don't know what was done about it).
Another instance (9-10 yos). One white girl (with mixed race younger siblings) did a black girl's hair for her. Everyone was telling her how lovely she looked (including the adults - we knew the black girl had suffered emotional abuse when younger and had had real issues about being too ugly to look at etc.) . One (mean and spiteful - not the only time he was like this) black boy said 'it looks stupid - you can tell it was done by a white person' ...other children (all races) instantly leapt to both girls defense...(actually a good thing -even more fuss how lovely black girl looked!)
Don't know where these children got this attitude - didn't come from a society in general believing being black was inferior ....
I never heard any white against black racism in the school ...I think mainly because they all knew that that was wrong and unacceptable ...
OP - I think don't make a big deal about it, don't buy a black doll (unless DD wants one...) - I think maybe your DD is doing it because you react...when things are said just point out that it isn't acceptable to judge people by appearances...

socareless Tue 26-Mar-13 22:08:26

She could have picked up from adults, children or even the media. As a black person I struggle to find any positive images of black people on TV. Its either an ad for help in Africa or x factor
Also shocked at how children are able to express themselves so hatefully at such a young age. My sons refer to people as peach and brown. And the few times they have been asked about their skin colour it was done out of curiosity. Children seem more fascinated by their hair.

RatPants Tue 26-Mar-13 22:34:15

I think they are just noticing differences at that age tbh. I took a dislike to a boy at my school with (tight) curly hair when I was very young and tried to "wash" it during water play apparently because I thought it was messy. My mother was very embarrassed.

If you don't have a tv and she hasn't heard it at home, that can be the only explanation. Black skin probably looks different to her skin. Children aren't blind.

KitchenandJumble Wed 27-Mar-13 02:17:47

Great post, Sparklyboots. I think it's very true that this is something that needs to be discussed explicitly. We tend to be quick to see how easily children learn gender stereotyping in the general culture, but sometimes people seem uncomfortable about how insidious cultural messages about race and ethnicity can be.

I live in the US now, and this country certainly has its own long and sad history regarding race relations. But the UK does as well. I remember when I lived in England hearing BBC presenters casually using the phrase "n**** in the woodshed." And that wasn't so long ago, relatively speaking. Although that language wouldn't be acceptable today, I think we're kidding ourselves if we believe that prejudice based on race or ethnicity has been eradicated.

topsyandturvy Wed 27-Mar-13 08:26:04

Very interesting sparkly boots, and perhaps this is the norm, but I have never had to explain not being racist to my children and nevertheless they probably wouldnt understand what someone was talking about if they suggested someone was better in some way on account of their colour or origin.

I would say though that the origins of the people they know and see around us are very very diverse, and they will never have heard a racist comment in person or on television from within our home

greencolorpack Wed 27-Mar-13 08:40:32

We are progressive politically correct hand-wringing Guardian readers and our ds when he was about 5 fell out with a slightly irritating boy in his class who happened to be black and ds was heard to say "I hate black people.". We were called in to see the head teacher and made to explain ourselves and justify our politically correct credentials in no uncertain terms. We felt terrible and hideous and guilty and had no idea where it came from. We talked loads to him about differences and never say anything un PC and we are not racist. The more you try to justify yourself though especially to an unfriendly head teacher the more you think "Maybe we ARE racist and we don't realise it!". I told my Mum and her first response was to assume we are all hideous ignorant racists too. Thanks Mum, she always has my back. (irony).

Sometimes children say stupid things and there's no terrible home background behind it, I wish ds had said "I hate X" (the boys name) but he didn't.

Kewcumber Wed 27-Mar-13 10:22:20

socareless - finding positive role models is tricky isn't it. My son is mixed race central asian and there are even fewer available for him - though according to the media all asians are hard working academics hmm I'm not sure this kind of stereotyping is any better (well of of course it is in a way! But i hope you get what I mean)

I totally get the children notice difference thing - of course they do and there is nothing wrong with that but this kind of difference noticing generally happens around 3 when the OP first noticed it. By primary school a child should be able to articulate (on the whole) why they think certain things and certainly should be capable of taking a firm direction about why differentiating based on looks (of any sort) is wrong.

DS (and I) have no issue with any child saying to him "you are CHinese" "no I'm not I'm British Kazakh but I do look a bit chinese if you don't know much about it".

I am sceptical that children voluntarily call people "black" as I've never heard it myself - they will IME describe hair type/colour, height, and if they are particularly observant describe their skin colour. DS used to try to find the perfect match - the boy with the peanut butter colour skin! But now just settles for "darker/lighter than me".

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