Children too can be racists
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Children too can be racists

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Friday, March 3   2017 at  16:23

I was watching campaign clips of US President Donald Trump going on with his usual racial tirades and started wondering how a person could be outright racist.

I don’t think Trump woke up one day and decided that his colour was superior; it must have been something he learnt as a child, so I thought.

Could it be that our homes and schools are the breeding grounds of racism? And racism is still rife in Africa!

You see, as human beings we all use stereotypes at one point either knowingly or unknowingly. So we are the enemies of equality that we keep shouting about.

When we look at people using pigeonholes, we at times focus on the colour of their skin, age, gender and these days people have taken it to another stinking level - we take in the body size as well, we see nothing beyond those.

Was disgusting

In our minds, biases are created so we end up only thinking these people are dumb, bad or slow, which does not reflect in reality.

And unfortunately, this is how different people are perceived in the society. Though there is only concern about growing racism in Western and the Arab world.

There is increasing racism attitude and behaviour among children in Africa which needs to be tackled fast enough. The other day in Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar es Salaam, I was meeting a group of women of the Asian descent and we were asked to go along with our children. My child was the only African while the rest were Asians.

Born innocent

When I took my child to play on the swing with the rest, one of them said they could not play with him because they were told that Africans are monkeys and one said his name was disgusting.

You can imagine a toddler feeling the sting of racial prejudice in his own country! Well, with time, some of the younger children loosened up and decided to play with my toddler.

The older ones were adamant that they could not play with an African child. You see, we cannot blame these children because they were all born innocent and loving until someone, either at home or in school, or wherever corrupted their minds and told them that one race is superior to the other. This is how we pass on racism and tribalism to our children.

Their parents

Children cannot help but learn from their parents or at school that certain races occupy different positions in the society.

Psychologists assert that racism and physical prejudice don’t fully develop in human beings until their teen or adult years. But here were children who were hardly 10 but had the ability to express racial preferences.

An article posted in Boston Globe newspaper on June 2012 quotes Mahzarin Banaji, a renowned Harvard University psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert, and colleagues pointing out that even though they may not understand the “why’’ of their feelings, children exposed to racism tended to accept and embrace it as young as age 3, and in just a matter of days.

Existing intolerance

So, here are my suggestions on how to help children unlearn bigotry and make a world a better place for everyone and the future generations. The change start with us, we could start those community multicultural initiatives or events to reduce racism attitude and increase awareness about the existing intolerance.

When children continually do the same thing together and their parents and teachers encourage them, they tend to form a great team - they are just innocent souls who need to learn various virtues and unlearn racism.

Our schools could embrace multicultural education that promotes positive group relations and help learners and their teachers positively embrace ethnic diversity.

Different cultures

As parents, we could talk positively to our children about people who we perceive to be different from us, it could be ethnic, racial, religion, gender or any other thing so that they have a diverse and positive outlook of the society.

They will also be able to learn to live and work closely with people whose religion, race, culture may be different from their own.

By speaking positively with our children about people from different cultures and races, their lives would not be constricted by fear and they would eventually work to end discrimination.

That is how I want to raise my child.

Email: kikijanty@gmail.com
Twitter: @JanetOtieno