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racism at nursery?

(28 Posts)
wahwah Mon 22-Sep-08 17:36:49

Ds has been going to nursery for 2 mornings a week for about 6 months (he is 2y 8m). It is a mixed nursery, in terms of ethnicity, in a mixed area. We are white and have friends of different ethnicities.

A couple of weeks ago Ds described a Black African girl as a "chocolate girl" and I though that it was just him trying to understand different skin colours. A Black friend was a bit more concerned as she had heard this in the context of racist bullying before. Anyway, we let it rest as obviously I don't think my son is going to join the BNP just yet, or the nursery is a recruitment centre.

Anyway, fast forward to yesterday when ds described a Japanese neighbour as having a 'yellow' face. We've played a game since then of me asking colours of faces and he's saying 'chocolate' for Black African / African Caribbean people, 'yellow' for South Asian and 'white' for white.

I am a bit nonplussed because I expected him to say 'pink' or 'brown' for skin colour (as it's a bit much asking him to grasp the political complexity of Black and White) and the terms he's using sound as if they might be something another child (or god forbid another adult) might be using. If he has learned these terms anywhere, then it's nursery, as no-one we know would use them.

So my question is, has anyone elses children spontaneously developed these sorts of terms, or is it coming from nursery and I'll need to alert them to it?

wahwah Mon 22-Sep-08 17:40:07

Meant to say 'South East Asian'.

memoo Mon 22-Sep-08 17:42:08

I think you need to speak to the nursery to be honest. I work the reception class of a primary school and we have children of many different ethnicity.

In my experience kids usually describe skin colour as white, pink or brown, I have never heard them use chocolate or yellow before.

cthea Mon 22-Sep-08 17:42:08

My DS came out of his own with "brown" face and in fact still uses it in a descriptive way, nothing else really behind it. I don't see however how "yellow" would come about as no-one is actually so remarkably yellow, so I'd say he'd picked it up somewhere.

RandomFlopsy Mon 22-Sep-08 17:47:26

I agree with the other posters. I can understand brown or pink (it's what my toddler children have said) but not yellow or chocolate.

wahwah Mon 22-Sep-08 18:13:16

Thanks for your input and I'm thinking we were right to be worried. We'll speak to the nursery.

littleshebear Mon 22-Sep-08 19:26:08

My dd1 used chocolate. This was when she was about 2-3 at nursery. She didn't get it from home so don't know if she picked it up from nursery or just thought it up. I think I've seen other threads where this has been mentioned so don't think it's rare. It was used in a very matter of fact way - just as a description. Can't remember what I did, to be honest - too long ago (she's now 13) but I would have thought I would have just told her the correct word to use.I didn't mention it to nursery - this was a very mixed nursery too.

MrsMattie Mon 22-Sep-08 19:29:13

He's far too young for this to be anything other than innocently saying what he sees. I seriously doubt he has learned these phrases at nursery, and I wouldn't worry about them anyway. You can start gently guiding him towards better descriptions of people's appearances over time, and if he goes to a multicultural nursery, I'm sure they will do the same.

dilemma456 Mon 22-Sep-08 19:33:37

Message withdrawn

bigTillyMint Mon 22-Sep-08 19:36:46

Is the nursery ethnically mixed? Are the staff all white?

My (white) DC went to a very mixed nursery where the staff were mainly non-white and they never made any comments about skin colour till (white) friends came to stay and their DS pointed at a woman (luckily a distance away) and said "look! that woman is brown!" At which point DD (about 4) said " not everyone's white, you know!"

NotDoingTheHousework Mon 22-Sep-08 19:46:38

Message withdrawn

Twelvelegs Mon 22-Sep-08 19:53:03

I said chocolate when I first saw an afro carribean... my DS said brown skin.... children just say what they see amd I wouldn't worry. I would ensure that I make a big deal out of black people I saw around and naming ethnic groups, including white people.

blinks Mon 22-Sep-08 19:55:16


harpomarx Mon 22-Sep-08 19:58:03

dd is mixed race and has said something about her dad being 'chocolate' before, I honestly don't think she picked it up from anyone else, just a playful description as she tried to work out the difference in his/hers and my skin colour.

I imagine that the use of chocolate in the context of racist bullying that your friend refers to was with older children?

Grumpalina Mon 22-Sep-08 20:00:03

My DS1 who is now 8 and mixed race Afro Carribean describes white people as peach. He still does aged 8 but I think it stems from the fact that he loves drawing and the pencil he uses for 'white' skin is peach.

dilemma456 Mon 22-Sep-08 20:00:18

Message withdrawn

NotQuiteCockney Mon 22-Sep-08 20:03:31

Hmm, I could see a kid coming up with 'chocolate' to describe people's skin ... but that being said, I think kids don't automatically know that adults 'classify' people by skin colour, more than by other attributes (we talk about Black people more than tall people or green-eyed people or big-nosed people).

As for 'yellow', that's more than a bit odd.

wahwah Mon 22-Sep-08 20:05:22

Why do you think that, Blinks? I don't want my son describing people in terms which I consider to be offensive.

harpomarx Mon 22-Sep-08 20:12:19

when dd first started nursery she created a book with a picture of herself on the front. The first task was to choose skin colour. There wasn't a huge range of colours so she chose a quite dark brown (she is light-skinned) as she very much identifies with the black part of her family. I don't remember whether or how much the nursery worker had anything to do with her choice but perhaps they would steer kids towards the colour they feel is closest. Could it be that your ds was involved in a similar exercise? and that he saw an asian child choose a yellowy colour?

wahwah Mon 22-Sep-08 20:21:17

Must type more quickly...yes, thanks for all the thoughts and ideas. I'm fairly clear now that he has picked this up from another adult or child at nursery and they will have to follow it up there. I'll just have to try to give ds a more appropriate vocabulary.

blinks Tue 23-Sep-08 09:41:40

wahwah- I think that you're creating a problem where there isn't one... there are lots of reasonable explainations why he used those descriptions. Children don't carry around all of the baggage that we do and unless they are indoctrinated, tend to just call it as they see it. You're jumping to a pretty wild conclusion that the nursery may have been passing on racist messages to your son.

I think anyone taking offense to your son's comment would be incredibly oversensitive.

wahwah Tue 23-Sep-08 20:28:12

Appreciate we have a difference of opinion, but my concern is that the terms he has been using haven't been spontaneously generated by him, but second hand stupidness from another child or adult. I asked for other people's experiences so that I could see how 'normal' it was. I actually work with children and have only ever heard variations on 'pink / brown' etc or occasionally more interesting ideas, but never 'yellow'.

I don't think my son is racist (!) and any adult would have to be a bit crazy to be offended by a 2 year old's innocent remarks, but I do feel strongly that the other children at nursery have a right not to hear terms which aren't acceptable.

I mean, I would be upset if he was swearing at other kids and if he was using words that he could only have picked up at nursery, then I would want to draw their attention to it too, so that they could sensitively deal with it.

Reallytired Tue 23-Sep-08 20:44:20

I think that its over reacting to describe a two year old as racist.

Why is it so shocking for a two year old to describe a chinese person as yellow. I agree that they aren't literally yellow, but causasian people are often described as white when pink is more accurate.

Prehaps you can gently tell your two year old that many people with dark skin prefer to be described as black rather than chocolate. Its a matter of education and growing up. A two year old is barely more than a baby.

Racism is something far nastier. Ie. I would worry more about a two year who thought that black men were bad.

wahwah Tue 23-Sep-08 21:06:15

I would never describe a 2 year old as 'racist'. That would be completely stupid.

I think enough people have kindly shared their concerns about 'yellow' as a description for me to think that it is something not ok. My son is only able to be literal about colour and my neighbour is not yellow, so my assumption is that he has been told that Japanese skin=yellow. It offends me that someone's casual racism (parent of nursery child / adult at nursery) has been passed onto this group of children and my child in particular.

Hope this clarifies my position and i think I've said all i can on the matter now.

cupcakesinthesnow Tue 23-Sep-08 21:27:07

When my ds1 was 18 months or so he had a book and on one page was a little (black) girl holding a ball. He would always say 'naughty girl' and I couldn't understand why until one day a few months or so later when his vocab was better he pointed to her bare feet and said 'she's a naughty girl because she dropped chocolate on her feet.'

WHen same son was about 2 and a half he nad his baby brother were at the doctors getting a jab and ds1 became quite concerned as the nurse was about to jab his brother. He kept saying 'Wash hands' to her and once again I couldnt understand why he kept on about it as she had. When we got outside I asked him why he kept saying it and he told me 'because she had chocolate in her hands.'

Obviously each time I explained the child and nurse didnt have chocolate in them and that was their skin colour. Incidently although we don't live in a highly multi cultural area our neighbours who we are quite friendly with are originally from Bangladesh and we have friends who are UK born Chinese and of caribbean origin. No one I knew or was aware of has/had ever used the term 'chocloate' when talking of skin colour so ds1 had obviously come to that description himself using terminology that made sense to him at the time. In fact one of my black friends who originally hails from Jamaica thought his description very sweet. I admit I did moentarily worry that someone else might take offence if he blurted somethng out in a shop etc but then I grew up in Hong Kong and travelled to mainlan China a lot with my job and was used to standing out for being blonde and being stared and pointed at particularly on the mainland by smal children (as well as adults) and I was certainly never offended by the stares of little children as I appreciated the fact they were aware I looked different to them and they were curious of me.

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