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Is this racism? How to handle?

(43 Posts)
geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 21:57:14

Sorry not even sure this is racism but its bothering my daughter and so I would be grateful for advice on how to handle. DD1 started school almost 3 weeks ago aged 4.5yrs. For the last week or so there have been some older children in the playground (aged 5-7) calling her the chinese girl. She is actually half chinese half english and to start with corrected them. However this is happening daily now adn although she is not upset or cross about it she is bothered that she being foccussed on. What bothers me more than anything is that in a smallish school with only a handful of children that are not white british, in a town with again only a handful of non british origin families that children of this age can look at a mixed race child who is not obviously mixed race and call her the chinese girl. Not all of the adults we meet realise she is mixed race so I am not sure how such young children have worked it out (from adults)? I haven't made a fuss, I have praised her for her way of handling it. Do I speak to school or is she going to have to toughen up and get used to it?

mamazee Mon 22-Sep-08 21:59:04

i think it is rascist but i don't understand what difference it makes if she is mixed race?

geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 22:06:23

it makes no difference whether she is all chinese or mixed. my point in mentioning the fact that she is mixedis that she is not very obviously a mixed race child and I suspect in order for children to be calling her names in the playground I wonder if they could have heard adults differentiating her from the others by virtue of her race iyswim. Is that what you mean mamazee?

MadBadandDangeroustoKnow Mon 22-Sep-08 22:08:46

I'm a school governor in a very multi-racial, multi-cultural city. We've had similar incidents at the school - some with some more insulting words added - and they have been dealt with under the school's racial equality policy. (Schools are obliged to record all racial incidents and report them to the local education authority). Where the children have been very young, they have not been punished but it has been explained to them that calling other children by racial epithets is unkind and unfair and shouldn't happen again. Consequences are then more serious if it happens again.

I would ask to see the school's race equality policy (every school should have one) and then speak to the teacher. Better to nip this in the bud now while your daughter is young and new to school. Your daughter is entitled to feel proud of her heritage and it would be very sad if this name-calling changed the way she feels about school. Hopefully, the school will deal with it quickly and in a low key way which helps the other children understand why what they are doing is wrong.

Sorry - long post but hope this helps.

london Mon 22-Sep-08 22:08:50

I would definitely speak to the school. No child likes being singled out and to do so on the basis of race/ethnicity is unacceptable. Its great that she is not getting upset, but that doesn't mean the school should allow it to go on unchallenged. If it's not a multi racial school or area, you could perhaps approach it as an issue of name calling, stress that it is the older infants who are doing this and that it makes yr daughter uncomfortable. The school should have an anti-bullying policy to deal with issues of name calling.

HRHMamazon Mon 22-Sep-08 22:10:37

I agree that theyhave probably caught on from adults.
I am sure they are only calling her "the chinese girl" as they aren't familiar with her yet as she is new. it is all they have to distinguish her by. Ie if she was a red head then she would be known as the red head iyswim.

It's not nice but i would hope that once she has had a chance to make friends people will just know her as XX rather than her appearance.

mamazee Mon 22-Sep-08 22:15:32

in fact having re read op i am not sure its rascist at all ? is it ?

geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 22:16:52

thanks madbadandangerous ad london - will do as you suggested. she is very proud of being either chinese, english or half and half depending on which side of bed she gets out of and what she is trying to achieve (eg noodles for dinner). I don't want this to become an issue so didn't want to make a fuss but also felt it is wrong if not racist. Also as I mentioned there are a handful of children from other ethnic backgrounds in the school and I didn't want o ignore something that mioght later become an issue for another child if not my dd.

gagarin Mon 22-Sep-08 22:18:20

But do you or dh look chinese? If so if the children have seen you in the playground they could well have made a connection and having seen you and her or her dad together may have identified her as "the chinese girl" rather than by her name.

The other thing is that the Olympics have been big news and IMO there is more positive emphasis on "being chinese" at the monment in the media, on Newsround etc.

If you are concerned that neither of these options can be the correct interpretation then go into the school and say you are concerned that your daughter is being referred to by her ethnic origin rather than by her name. And ask the school to help deal with it.

geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 22:18:39

HRH - hope you're right and I am overeacting. mamazee - i'm interested in what you are thinking, do tell...

geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 22:21:05

gagarin - you could well be right. but I understand that the older children concerned are calling in the shouting in the playground sense rather than identifying her as the girl sat over there type thing iyswim

MadBadandDangeroustoKnow Mon 22-Sep-08 22:23:32

The definition of a racist incident in the MacPherson report was that an incident is racist if anybody involved in it believes that it is (or something very similar). So, in this case it would be for geisha and her daughter to decide.

I may be over-sensitised to this because our local education authority has a very definite zero tolerance approach to racism - and I agree that some things can be ignorant and insensitive without being racist - but it sounds racist to me. But whatever the motivations of the children calling geisha's daughter 'the Chinese girl', they are bothering her and so it needs to stop. As london says, going down the anti-bullying route is another option.

edam Mon 22-Sep-08 22:27:38

So when you say they are calling her, they are actually shouting 'chinese girl' across the playground in a not very friendly manner? Think that needs to be taken up with school. Teachers should be very firm with the older kids about using race as an insult. And should be working carefully with the little ones - there must be stuff in the curriculum about this, surely!

FWIW my best friend is Chinese and her children attend ds's school. I have NEVER heard any of the children refer to her ds or dd as 'the Chinese boy/girl'. They are just known by their names.

mamazee Mon 22-Sep-08 22:27:56

if they are shouting it in the playground then that sounds like bullying to me.
sorry for your dd must be hard for her bless her

gagarin Mon 22-Sep-08 22:28:59

I personally wouldn't call it racism - if she were fat she'd be "the fat girl", if she were French she'd be "the French girl".

But if she's upset then see the teacher. And I wouldn't go in guns blazing - just go in for a chat.

Your dd is only 4.5 and the exact accuracy about what is reported from school and the playground is usually questionable.

Esp if you inadvertantly keep the issue in the front of her mind by asking/talking about it. Not that I'm suggesting she's fibbing but the balance of what's going on can be inaccurate.

Good luck with your teacher chat!

Blu Mon 22-Sep-08 22:35:07

It's bothering her, it is not polite to constantly define / describe someone in terms of race (or anything else, really), and this can be tactfully pointed out to the older children.

If you neded to give a full description of what someone looked like you would almost certainly include race, but to constantly, casually refer to someone as 'the Chinese girl' is not very polite.

I'm not surprised, though, that children would have identified her as having Chinese blood.

geisha Mon 22-Sep-08 22:35:42

you're absolutely right. it would be very easy to put words into my dd's mouth. she has never mentioned it directly. the reports have come via the mother of a friend of my dd's. after a wk of in depth reports of these occurances the friends mother decided to tell me about it because she said it was obv playing on her daughters mind and on-going. the only difference with my dd is that she has developed an attitude from hell and is quite defensive of criticism/suggestion. I thought it was just to do with starting school and recent changes within the household but I'm wondering now if it is connected to having to stick up for herself at school.

PootleAndThePoseysMum Mon 22-Sep-08 22:39:37

I find this interesting because I am mixed race - dad Indian and mum Irish. My dd (aged 5) is white skinned with blond hair and, to onlookers, would be classed as White. My dp's parents are separated (and re-married) so my dd has always had 'Tall Grandad','Small Grandad' and 'Brown Grandad' - totally innocent comments which are completely encouraged by all 3 Grandads because in their own words one is 6ft2inches, one is 5foot 7inches and one is Indian and very proud of his race, colour, background etc so does not see 'Brown' as an insult at all.
However, now she is at school she continues to describe individuals as 'the girl with the white ponytail', 'the boy with the brown down hair' (i.e. long and not tied up) and 'the brown girl with pretty beads'. None of these comments stem from racism, she is just stating facts as she sees them. I'm sure if she were to describe a Chinese girl then she would use those very words. I definately do not think that she overheard adults using these words because to the vast majority of adults, when they hear the term Brown Grandad they are shocked so they wouldn't use such a term. As I said I think she is just stating facts as she see's them.

I'm not sure if that answers your question!?! but I think sometimes adults take offence at innocent comments made by children when there was no harm intended. I really hope that is your situation smile

mamazee Mon 22-Sep-08 22:43:54

pootle i think it is the way the children are doing it that makes it a problem...repeatedly calling across a playground doesn't sound just descriptive to me ? i may be wrong

PootleAndThePoseysMum Mon 22-Sep-08 22:53:38

Actually, having just read through your posts which I hadn't seen when typing, if children are shouting at her across the playground then that is a different matter and it does sound like bullying and I would mention it to her teacher. That is a completely different situation to one child talking to another or talking to its parent which is the situation I had initially imagined.

If my dd described a girl to me in general conversation as 'the Chinese girl' I would be quite happy with that. However, if I heard her and a few of her friends shouting 'Chinese girl' across the playground then I would be very, very cross with her indeed. They are 2 completely diffent situations.

PootleAndThePoseysMum Mon 22-Sep-08 22:55:28

Mamazee, I completely agree, Im a very slow typer smile

mamazee Mon 22-Sep-08 22:57:25

me too ...its hard to keep up on here some times

geisha Tue 23-Sep-08 06:57:42

yes, I don't think these children are setting out to be unkind based on race because i doubt they fully understand what they are saying. but they are being unkind. guess it could be glasses or anything. i am bothered by the fact that they must have learned the description from an adult.
will have a word i think.

gagarin Tue 23-Sep-08 07:32:37

"i am bothered by the fact that they must have learned the description from an adult."

But why is that a problem? What if they had said "where is that little's girls mum/dad from?" Or "why does that little girl's mum/dad look different?"

The answer to both is "because he/she is chinese" isn't it?

IMO children become aware of cultural/ethnic differences about this age and will ask queastions/make comments.

I do agree that if it's upsetting your dd you def should see the teacher - but to believe the other children would not have been able to say/see these differences without prompting from an adult is prob an oversimplification.

Good luck with your first expereince of bringing up a difficult subject with a teacher - it's surprisingly hard!

BlueGreen Tue 23-Sep-08 15:05:46

But she is! mix race. British and Chinese. Beside I dont think 5-7 yo kids would be racist. I totally agree with mamaze.

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