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?

Iseeall Tue 26-Mar-13 13:06:24

I don't think anyone is born naturally racist. This is learned behaviour, she has heard adults or friends at nursery/school talking like this. Children imitate their parents and I would bet her best friends talk the same way and so do their parents/adults (although probably in private).
You are doing the right thing by not making a big issue about it and any positive reinforcement is good, a black doll, books with many ethnic characters etc, What about a playdate with a little black friend?
One further thought, was she hit or bullied at nursery by a black child, I know its too late to check with her nursery now but maybe she has an unpleasent memory, with kids it can be the slightest little thing that they remember, something you may of ignored as being so silly at the time?

squeakytoy Tue 26-Mar-13 13:08:56

I would find out if she is being influenced in any way by a friend at school.

Children are naturally inquisitive about peers who have a different appearance to them, but it shouldnt be so "anti" as your daughter appears to be.

my dd went through a phase of saying racist things, I think she was about 3, I told nursery immediatly and they did circle time, we also had nicey nicey discussions about it. That didnt work so i told her it was unkind and unacceptable and she would be punished if I ever heard her say that again, she stopped.

Kewcumber Tue 26-Mar-13 13:10:29

no I don't beleive that children are racist at 3 unless they are spouting things they've heard their parentns say.

It seems possible that either she has had a bad experience with a child at nursery.

Eitehr way you need to be a little firmer with her about her use of language. if you thinkits inappropriate - it isn;t always, sometimes it just observational but it sounds ot me like you think it more than that.

Kewcumber Tue 26-Mar-13 13:11:00

yes what Dita said too...

But then again also acknowledge the differences in skin colour, hair colour etc.

The fact that she is reticent to play and is making disparaging comments should be questioned.

msjones80 Tue 26-Mar-13 13:17:18

Thanks guys. Yes think I'm definitely getting her a black doll too (I got her a lottie doll yesterday, and there's only one with dark skin), but I'll get it too so it can be friends with the blonde one.

Iseeall there were a couple of boys at nursery that weren't very nice to her (but I wouldn't go as far as to say she had been bullied, they were just a bit rude not wanting to play with "girls"). And anyway, one was black but the other one was Indian, so not sure... Also, there have been many little black girls who have been lovely to her or who I see want to interact with her in class and she doesn't give a chance. I think a playdate is an excellent idea... do you know any good books or stories for children on the subject too?

dancemom Tue 26-Mar-13 13:20:43

I wouldnt call it racist, you wouldnt give her a label if she said she preferred to play with the blonde girl or she didnt like to play with the taller girl. I would just encourage tolerance and continue having disucssions about it, also think the doll is a good idea.

Kewcumber Tue 26-Mar-13 13:21:52

Personally I think you are wasting your time with the doll if she doesn't want it. Children don;t play with stuff becuase we paretns think its a good idea!

How amenable would your black friend be to having a word with her?

Are you sure that she has a problme with black/brown skin? Are you sure she's just not particularly friendly with the black girls in her class?

DeWe Tue 26-Mar-13 13:23:58

I would wonder if there had been something going on at nursery. Dd2 went through a stage at age about 5-6yo.

What happened was we were going home in the dark along a path which is lines with trees and a chap came up behind us silently, and made dd2 jump as she hadn't seen him. For ages she was just mega shy round anyone with the same colouring as him.
I found it really embarassing, and still find it strange that incident seemed to set off such an extreme reaction. Thankfully she grew out of it, after many talks about us all being the same inside, and she never expressed it out loud, which helped.

msjones80 Tue 26-Mar-13 13:28:04

No, I'm pretty sure she has a problem with black people. Not brown skin, she is friends with one of my friends son who is Asian and they have very brown skin. Also, the black girls in her class are very nice.

I would also say she can see it upsets me.

msjones80 Tue 26-Mar-13 13:29:09

Thanks DeWe, it's good to know she got over it.

Iseeall Tue 26-Mar-13 13:37:04

A quick look on amazon under childrens books-education brings up quite a selection of books that might be suitable. Am not techy so cannot link but these sound like they are worth a try.
The skin i'm in by Pat Thomas
It's okay to be different by Todd Parr
Come and eat with us by Annie Publer.


Shelly32 Tue 26-Mar-13 13:57:23

msjones When my DD was 3, she was cuddled up in bed with me and a black newsreader came on the TV. She quietly informed me that she didn't like black people. I'm brown skinned and so is half of one side of her family so I couldn't help but laugh. I asked her why and she said she didn't know. She's never said it since and loves her white/black/brown friends and dolls alike. I always wonder whether she was trying to see what I thought by saying that. I'm sure your daughter has just had a bad experience with a child who happens to be black. I wouldn't worry about it.

ComposHat Tue 26-Mar-13 13:57:27

Surely at 3, she would be unaware of the cultural meanings and history attached to skin colour and race? I don't think she is racist as such.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Tue 26-Mar-13 14:04:24

I think you need to tell her straight that it is unacceptable to decide whether she likes someone based solely on the colour of their skin.

familyfun Tue 26-Mar-13 14:06:27

my dd is 5 and the girls she likes to play with have long blonde hair and blue eyes, like she does. She picks friends who look similar to herself. i dont think thats rascist at 5, she has white/brown and black skinned teachers and likes them all. she also picks dolls that look like herself.
my dd2 had darker hair and brown eyes and loves dora dolls as they look like her. i think they identify with similar looking people.

Kaida Tue 26-Mar-13 14:13:41

Kids around her age start noticing differences and automatically ascribe positive attributes to "like me" and negative/less positive attributes to "not like me". The book Nurture Shock has a great chapter on it emphasizing that we need to actively teach children it's okay to be friends with people of all colours/genders/abilities/etc, as tribalism is natural. There was an experiment where they took a group of little children and for one day put half in blue shirts and half in red. They then had a period of time where they weren't colour-coded any more and there was no reference made to the blue or red shirts. Then they asked questions about the two groups, and the children consistently rated their group as better on a range of measures.

msjones80 Tue 26-Mar-13 14:15:04

shelly that's hilarious!

propertyNIGHTmare the problem if I tell her like that, she might stop saying those things, but I want her to be able to open herself to me, so I'd rather explain to her why it isn't acceptable than forbid.

Forgot to mention I took her to the london museum in the docklands a few weeks ago and we saw all the footage and exhibition about the people from Africa who were enslaved. I explained to her about race, discrimination, etc. So she knows!!! I wish she could empathize more. She's only 5 I know sad

Booyhoo Tue 26-Mar-13 14:18:27

tbh i'd be inclined to speak with her teacher and find out if there is an issue in school between her and another child/children or if there is a problem with racism in general in the class. the teacher will have noticed if there is a division in the class based on colour and will be able to tell you what steps they have taken/are taking to resolve it. if your DD is voicing these opinions at home they are likely to to have been voiced in school aswell and the teacher will be aware.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Tue 26-Mar-13 14:33:07

Explain why it is unacceptable then! Put it in simple turns. Say we can none of us 'help' or 'influence' what we are born looking like so to pick on a physical aspect of a person and decide you don't like it is wrong, cruel and unkind. If your dd has curly hair or blue eyes ask her would she feel upset and hurt if another child in her class refused to play with her 'just because' of her having blue eyes/curly hair. At 5 your dd is old enough to understand that she should be mindful of other people's feelings

MsAkimbo Tue 26-Mar-13 14:50:47

I'd agree that dialogue is key. By 5 you can ask her to verbalize why she says/thinks these things, how she came to these conclusions, and then explain to her why these things are wrong.

As she gets older she'll be able to better recognize that people will be different, but she'll be better able to respect differences once she understands how hurtful it is to judge others.

MilfRocket Tue 26-Mar-13 15:04:31

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Tue 26-Mar-13 15:06:47


abzfrom5ive Tue 26-Mar-13 15:09:07


Booyhoo Tue 26-Mar-13 15:09:47


everyone programs their children. i'm not even addressing the rest of your post.

IsabelleRinging Tue 26-Mar-13 15:19:39

I disagree with those that say she is imitating the adults and other children around her. I think many young children are puzzled about those that may look different to themselves, it is not racist, she is just noticing the dfferences, and like many children may have a fear or wariness of those differences. It is up to parents to then educate their children that it is OK to be different and to embrace it and also to notice the similarities as well. My dd was like yours OP when she started school, but now at age 7 she is friends with all the children in her class.

I think she is picking it up from adults. Most young children I know will refer to those with African heritage as "brown" rather than "black". My granddaughter used to refer to her "brown family" when referring to the side of the family with Jamaican heritage. I guess childhood logic when referring to skin colour is to refer to actual colour.

DD (3) was fascinated by the difference in skin colour when she was little. Now it's just normal - she has a black uncle and a black auntie, and step-siblings of various shades. She calls them brown though.

ComposHat Tue 26-Mar-13 15:26:54

Milf rocket - how are things over at piston heads these days?

DialsMavis Tue 26-Mar-13 15:27:29


MilfRocket Tue 26-Mar-13 15:29:24

What is piston heads? I'm unfamiliar with that.

abzfrom5ive Tue 26-Mar-13 15:31:45

so you've been lurking for a response to your abuse all that time have you milfRocket?

Easter holidays...

FreyaSnow Tue 26-Mar-13 15:33:16

Children pick up odd ideas. DD was horrified by blonde children. She was actually blonde herself, but she was horrified by children who were very blonde, treating it as some kind of illness. I have no idea why. The only thing you can do at that age is explain that you have to treat all people kindly and judge people as individuals on what they say and do, not on appearance. It isn't acceptable to say anybody is nasty based on their physical appearance, and I think you do have to forbid it.

BegoniaBampot Tue 26-Mar-13 15:45:05

It's not always learned from parents or such, I think kids can just find differences when they are little a little strange or something they don't quite understand. My young child used to go to school where the overwhelming majority were Asian, particularly Chinese. We thought it was great that he would grow up sort of colour blind but when we left and decided to return a few years later, he said that he didn't want to go back to that school as there were too many Chinese people. I was so surprised, especially as the majority of his friends out of school had been Asian and Chinese.

SatsukiKusukabe Tue 26-Mar-13 15:47:20

begonia was that more to do with being a minority rather than not liking Asian people?

SatsukiKusukabe Tue 26-Mar-13 15:50:49

op, I come from a mixed race family and frankly I'd just be saying we don't speak that way and it's wrong. explain that you would not be happy if someone judged her for her skin color and that it's not nice to talk that way. I would get the black doll and some books too

HoHoHoNoYouDont Tue 26-Mar-13 16:00:33

I personally think Racism is learned by a child by things they see and hear from adults or from other children who have been around racist people.

As a child back in the 70s all my school friends were white, there were no other ethnicities in my school back then. However, my best friends at home were Asian. I didn't even realise a 'difference' until I was much older. To me they were just friends (and still are).

blueemerald Tue 26-Mar-13 16:26:51

I wondering she's saying it to get a reaction from you? You said she knows it upsets you?

HollyBerryBush Tue 26-Mar-13 16:30:48

Do the black girls stick to themselves?

Oddly, working in a very mixed secondary, which has no discernible racism, the black children tend to group together, but I don't think it's a colour thing, it's more to do with traditional home life and strong Christian beliefs.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Tue 26-Mar-13 16:31:53

Totally agree with Isabelle

EssexGurl Tue 26-Mar-13 17:56:04

Maybe she had an issue with that particular child and so it was her way of describing her? Can't believe a 3 yo thinks in a racist was. We have friends where mum is white and dad is Asian. DS sees them v rarely and couldn't remember their daughters name. At a party he called her "the brown girl". No one in the room batted an eyelid and just reminded him of the girls name. Just a description. Would it have been different if she was blond and he said "the blond girl"? I think you are over thinking it.

topsyandturvy Tue 26-Mar-13 19:05:35

OP, if you are sure there are no issues at nursery, and no exposure to racist values (are you certain about this in the nursery context?) then I would actually ignore it. No black dollys, no chats with friends, no educational books.

In my view it will blow a nothing (I dont think your daughter has racist views, I think she is trying to explain something and hasnt got the language skills to do so properly, although I have no idea what she is trying to say).

Coming from your 3 year old it most likely means absolutely nothing like what it means to us as adults, none of us could probably guess what she really means.

Here is an example, my children are not exposed to racist beliefs, once my ds, then 6 was explaining to me which of two men (one white, one black) he was talking about and he said "the black man", fortunately it only took me a second to twig that he did not in fact mean the black man (who he would most probably have called the brown man), but the white man who was wearing black clothes!

thegreylady Tue 26-Mar-13 19:14:44

When my ds was a baby [up to age 2] we lived in Sierra Leone.He had one white friend who,like him had blonde hair and light skin. We came home when he was 2 and he started at a Montessori nursery school at 2.6.On his first day he went up to a dark skinned girl and patted her face saying,"Like you-you are a nice colour!"
I am sure children identify closely with the familiar.
Ds went from being surrounded by black people with just the odd white one to the complete opposite.Seeing that little girl seemed to make him feel comforatble in a world he could recognise.Interestingly he very quickly stopped noticing colour at all and just fitted in to the group.

pigletmania Tue 26-Mar-13 19:26:42

I would be firmer with her like someone unthread has said. Tell her it's discrimination, you will not allow it and punish her if she dies say negative things

pigletmania Tue 26-Mar-13 19:30:05

Op has sad her dd is 5 now so is not a toddler

KitchenandJumble Tue 26-Mar-13 19:37:23

Children internalize messages that the larger society sends, in terms of gender, ethnicity, skin color, etc. Have you heard of the experiments using dolls in the US? (Coincidentally, your OP mentions dolls, which is why I thought of these experiments.) Black and white children were presented with two dolls which were identical except for skin color. There was a significant preference for the white doll among all the children. The children tended to call the white doll good, pretty, nice, and they called the black doll bad, mean, ugly. These experiments were used in school desegregation cases in the US, to show how racism becomes internalized.

Now, you might say that these results reflected the larger society of the Southern US prior to the civil rights movement. However, the experiment has been repeated quite recently with (sadly) similar results.

So maybe that is what is going on with your DD. She sees that certain groups are not as valued in society and she has absorbed that message.

Or maybe she just sees that these comments bother you, and she repeats them to get a rise out of you.

In any case, don't despair. Your DD is not destined to become a racist. I would certainly continue having discussions with her, explaining that it is wrong to judge people by the color of their skin. Perhaps appeal to her sense of fairness, e.g., "How would you like it if someone said they didn't like you because you have blue eyes (or whatever)"?

Cherriesarelovely Tue 26-Mar-13 19:37:47

If if makes you feel any better OP Dd told us that she was really scared of my DP when she moved in after we had been seeing each other for a year. Dd was also 3 at the time. She told me "'I've never lived with a black person and I've never seen them do normal things like reading". After that, occasionally she would make little comments about DP's dark skin and mention that her friends laughed at her because she now had a black and a white mummy. We just talked to her about it gently but accepted that her comments were just her being honest and coping with a new and unfamiliar situation.

I agree with MsAkimbo and several other posters though. I would explore it with her to see if there has been an incident but I would then make it quite clear that to talk about others like this is wrong and hurtful.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Tue 26-Mar-13 20:05:11

My God at some of the comments out of children's mouths hmm

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 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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