You might have seen a post doing the rounds on social media about two little boys, both from different races who asked if they could get their hair cut the same in order to “trick their teacher”.

Here’s a little video of the two of them:

Cute hey?? It is beautiful how this Mum says that she decided not to “state the obvious” about how this wouldn’t trick the teacher and just went along with it.

Which raises an interesting question about how racism develops.

Are people “born” racist? Or Do they learn it?

This really takes us back to the old “nature vs. nurture” debate, and I’m not sure there’s really a consensus as to how it develops, but I like to believe that no person is born “racist” or with an ingrained belief that people who look, talk and do things different to them are in any way better or worse human beings.

Studies suggest that children’s attitudes, perceptions and beliefs can be shaped by the people around them and the things they are exposed to, particularly through their observations, interaction and communication with peers, authority figures and adults.

Based on those findings, it would make sense that it is entirely possible for children to grow up with an appreciation for and acceptance of people from different places, races, religions and cultural backgrounds to their own.

A few idea’s on how to encourage acceptance of others include:

Talk About It
From an early age, talk to your child about the world and where people are from. Engage them in learning about what people from places other than themselves look like, believe in, do for fun, what they eat, how they dress, what music they listen to, or dances they do (try to avoid stereotyping where possible).

Ask your child if they can find out key things about people from a specific place or culture (you may need to help them access resources such as the library, travel companions or the internet).

Kids really enjoy making costumes, food from other cultures, learning words from other languages, making crafts and so on. Help your child to develop an appreciation for how people from a cultural background different from their own live.

Take turns in your family to choose what cultures, countries, places etc. to learn about. A great place to start can be your own family tree!

Examine Your Attitudes and Values
Think about your own values and attitudes towards people from a different background to your own.

Do you ever make jokes or comments that could be taken as offensive by someone from a different racial background or culture to your own?

Remember your children are watching and learning from everything you do… they may copy the things you say and do, which may also influence their opinions of people from backgrounds that are different to your own.

Read Books
Make available to your child, books that have characters with backgrounds that are different to their own.

Share stories with them from places that they haven’t experienced.

Ask them to tell you about what they think it would be like to be a child in a country that is different to where they currently live.

For more ideas, head over to the “Preventing Racism” in the strategies section on our website.

What are your thoughts? Do you think children are born racist or is it a learned behaviour? How do you teach your children to be accepting and embrace the cultures of others?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below!


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References:

  • Boyd, F., Causey, L. & Galda, L. (2015). Culturally Diverse Literature: Enriching Variety in an Era of Common Core State Standards. The Reading Teacher. 68(5). pp. 378-387
  • Quintana, S. M. & McKown, C.M. (2008). Handbook of Race, Racism and the Developing Child. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey
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