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Racism - really shocked and sad at ds2

(32 Posts)
roisin Thu 14-Apr-05 20:16:46

OK a bit of background, we live in a very mono-cultural town, which is very, very white, and very racist. For example the county has recently scored very highly on some research or other for racism, and I would hazard a guess that our town is the worst in the county. The newspaper interviewed 5 people on the street on the subject and they all replied words to the effect of
"Of course we can't be racist, we don't even have any foreigners in this town!"


We noticed this about the town when we first visited, and it really saddened us. But dh and I thought we might actually be able to change some opinions a bit. For instance in Oxfordshire if someone made a racist/sexist/homophobic remark at a party or something they would have 20 people down their throats about it immediately. Here they'd have 20 people nodding So dh and I do make a stand pick people up on their comments - though I have to admit dh is better at it than me.

Sorry, this is longer than I anticipated.

Tonight ds2 had a lovely school reading book about Australia, and then we came to a page about Aborigines, and ds2 said "They're bullies aren't they?" ...?!
I questioned him further and he said "They've got really horrible angry faces".

He didn't articulate much more, but I'm sure it was basically a racist comment. And of course I had a long chat with him about it.

I'm in tears writing this, it has really made me so upset. I'm sure it's a result of living in such a mono-cultural, narrow-minded, intolerant place. What can we do? Other than move?

misdee Thu 14-Apr-05 20:20:32

how did they actually look tho in their facial expressions? he may have just picked that up and not the colour of their skin.

tamum Thu 14-Apr-05 20:24:55

I agree with misdee, I wouldn't be so quick to assume the worst roisin. Could you try showing him a few other photos of people from different ethnic backgrounds (but without cross faces) and see how he categorises them? Even if it was a racist remark, he may just not have come across any other views until you just spoke to him and it will be fine from now on. Chin up

Lonelymum Thu 14-Apr-05 20:29:46

I don't think this was racism on your ds's behalf. I hope this doesn't sound rascist, but pictures of Aborigines in children's books are often simplistic ones showing them with their faces painted, doing a tribal dance which your son might innocently think looked a bit threatening.

I think as long as you have a non-racist attitude (which you clearly do) your ds will pick up on this, and it will be far more significant than the fact that he lives in a town with few non-white people.

Freckle Thu 14-Apr-05 20:31:17

Also, it might be that he was commenting honestly about how he views their faces. Certain races have clearly defined features and, as you live where you do, it is likely he has never seen Aboriginal features before. Making an honest comment shouldn't be viewed as rascist simply because he is remarking on a particular race. To him, their features generally might appear angry. Perhaps if you find some pictures of happy Aboriginals he might amend his view of them.

I can understand why you are upset, but feel you may be reading more into this than should be.

roisin Thu 14-Apr-05 20:31:20

But that is exactly the point misdee. They did not have angry expressions on their faces. But they did have aboriginal faces.

WideWebWitch Thu 14-Apr-05 20:32:50

I don't think he was being racist roisin, he was responding to the looks on their faces, surely? Wouldn't he have said that if they'd been white and angry looking? I bet if you talk to him in the morning and probe you'll find that. But the mono culture obviously does bother you so maybe you need to think about whether it bothers you enough to want to do anytihng about it? (as you may remember, it's a big part of why we left Devon)

roisin Thu 14-Apr-05 20:32:51

Thanks for all your supportive comments btw. Maybe I am overreacting.

misdee Thu 14-Apr-05 20:33:03

TBH i found pics of aborigines quite scary when i was achild, especially the ones with all the face paint stuff on.

how old is ds2?

WideWebWitch Thu 14-Apr-05 20:34:06

Calm down roisin! (meant kindly, there isn't an emoticon!) I think the mono culture is bothering you though and that's pos why you've reacted so strongly.

Caligula Thu 14-Apr-05 20:34:20

Were they smiling Roisin? Because if they weren't, then an unfamiliar looking unsmiling face may well have looked angry to him.

tamum Thu 14-Apr-05 20:36:39

I agree with www, maybe this seems worse to you because it seems to be living out your fears? It's obviously something that's been bothering you (completely to your credit of course).

wilfulwife Thu 14-Apr-05 20:39:58

I agree with the other posters and i don't think it matters where you live as to what attitude you have towards others , i really don't.We live in a highly multi cultural area of London and my son (6) has recently been the victim of racist bullying.He is white,and therefore a minority at his school,the bullies were it just so happens all of Asian origin.I was horrified by this,as was my son who would not dream of judging others by their appearance.By the way,my friend had an episode whereby her ds became terrified of men who had really black skin-African i suppose,she was so distressed by this as both she and her dh are of west indian origin.I wouldnt read too much into your son's comments at all.

trefusis Thu 14-Apr-05 20:40:28

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hatsoff Thu 14-Apr-05 20:44:32

I think the only thing you can do (which you probably do anyway) is to reinforce your positive messages - have a good look for multi-cultural books and fill the house with them. I also think that this (if it was a racism of sorts) is a lot more rife than we realise. Winston wotsisname on Child of our Time had kids from a range of backgrounds comment on photos of other kids - ask them which they thought would be clever/naughty and which they would most like to friends with and the results were really quite shocking. even the black kids said that the black kid was the naughty one and they all wanted to be friends with the pretty blonde white girl. The one black kid who though the black kid in the photo was teh cleverest and the one he wanted to be friends with was one whose mother was very politically aware and who had discussed race openly with him and made a real effort to expose him to positive role models etc. Your ds is young, he wasn;t being racist in a perjorative sense but he may have been reflecting a level of uncertainty of the unknown. I'm sure if you feel as passionately as you clearly do you will get this through to him - parents are a much bigger influence than school or peers.

ionesmum Thu 14-Apr-05 20:46:01

Roisin, I agree, I don't think your ds was being racist, but I fuilly understand your worries about living in a narrow-minded area. I think the only thing you can do is carry on as you are, sharing with your dss other cultures and explaining why some people are wrong about how they see them.

What is the school like for teaching multiculturalism?

roisin Thu 14-Apr-05 20:48:47

Thanks for your comments.

Just for inf. the men in the picture are not smiling, but neither are they frowning. They haven't got painted faces, and are just doing normal stockman work on a sheep station: so not really unusual in any other way.

I've got a DVD of Rabbit Proof Fence on my shelf; maybe I could show them both that as a conversation starter. But I can't remember how traumatic it is. (I know I cried, but then it doesn't take much!)

WWW and misdee - yes it does bother me, and it always has. It is the one big negative about this place - but everything else is great, and I do love it here.

Anyway we will have to at least consider moving in 3-5 yrs time anyway for schooling ...
but that's another topic

Maybe I am just being a bit sensitive. My mum has been staying this week and a couple of times made some (IMO) racist remarks, and used an offensive term for gypsies, and I didn't pick her up on it. It just annoys me so much.

roisin Thu 14-Apr-05 21:22:45

Ionesmum - the school are great actually, very pro-active, but against such entrenched views it's going to be a long slow process. Actually it's one of dh's link governor responsibilities, maybe I should give him another prod as well!

One thing that makes me laugh is there was nothing here 150 yrs ago ... just a tiny village. Within 35 yrs there were 100,000 people living here. So all the 'locals' are descended from immigrants, they just happened to be white immigrants.
(Btw they are actually prejudiced here towards people who come from 5 miles up the road!!!)

Hatsoff - we do have quite a lot of multi-cultural books - both pro-active 'issue' and 'political' books, as well as novels that just happen to have black (or whatever) children as the hero. But I'm always on the look out for more, if anyone has any particularly good suggestions?!

Btw has anyone read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses? It's a teenage book, but not suitable for U12s (IMO). But it's a cracking good read.

Beetroot Thu 14-Apr-05 21:25:38

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Beetroot Thu 14-Apr-05 21:27:18

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batters Thu 14-Apr-05 21:31:23

roisin, we live in a very multi cultural area and when my dd was aged about 3 she came home from nursery and said something that was racist.

I was incredibly upset and, yes, although I didn't realise it at the time, angry with her. My dp and I had always presented positive images of people, and she had black friends etc. I thought we had failed. Anyway I told the nursery about it and they were fantastic. They had been aware of the problem, apparantly it stemmed from another little girl's comments. The nursery started a huge project on the different countries that the kids came from, and everyone bought in stuff from their country, or their parents country. They visited the library and looked at some multi cultural books. And it really worked.

And of course my 3 year old wasn't actually being racist knowingly - she repeated a comment she had heard from the other little girl. Any chance of you talking to your son's teacher and seeing if something similar could be done? Even if it is an all white class, a special project could really help understanding.

And please don't be too upset, although I know exactly how you feel.

batters Thu 14-Apr-05 21:32:04

The Amazing Grace books are great, but possibly girls would like them more than boys.

ionesmum Thu 14-Apr-05 21:51:25

roisin, at least the school is good. I worry about 'token' stabs at multiculturalism at the school the dds will be going to.

QueenEagle Thu 14-Apr-05 21:58:07

roisin - not wanting to cause offence to anyone but it's my view that some people can be oversensitive to the race issue when it really need not be.

Take what happened with one of my ds's as an example - he asked a child at school if he was mixed race. The school then reported my son's question as *a racist incident* in whatever politically correct record book it had in it's possession. I was furious that a simple, innocent question could be viewed as such and insisted the remark not be rcorded as one.

Demented Thu 14-Apr-05 21:59:58

Roisin, I agree with the others that it was not a racist comment. I've had similar from my DS1 (and the town we live in isn't too mono cultural), a boy who he had been really friendly with at School one day DS1 declared that he didn't like him anymore because he looked different (his mother was Thai, his father Scottish) and recently we made friends with a Nigerian couple and it took my DS1 a little while to get his head round it, he asked me why were they black and were they black everywhere, even under his clothes. I don't think these comments are racist but the important thing is how we as parents respond that help to shape the way our children think.

I loved Rabbit Proof Fence, blubbed and blubbed my way through it although like you can't remember if it would be suitable for a six year old.

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