Ask the Expert: dealing with and preventing racism
“Eww dirty”, “Chinese have slanted eyes” - Heard of these stereotypical statements/remarks about your race at least once? We all have heard stories about people being bullied, discriminated or attacked, due to their race. Imagine your child is the one in that situation, how would you feel? 🤔 As parents, you are your child’s role model and you have the ability to change their mindset 🧠 To better understand this topic, we have invited Rany Moran - Certified life coach, trained counsellor and parenting expert to answer your questions on dealing and preventing racism amongst children 🧒🏻👧🏽 We all have to start somewhere, so why not use our platform to learn more about it? Start commenting your questions before our session to be aware of what’s currently happening 🤓
I was bullied as a child for being "different" because I was mixed, and never found a sense of belonging no matter which "group" of friends I joined. It was only till I got much older that my differences made me stand out—not stick out. How can I help my children realise this earlier?Read more
Hi Sarah, it helps to start nurturing your kids with a fresh perspective, and not with reflections of your past, as they may be dealing with very different (albeit) similar situations. However, you can certainly help your children identify what’s going on by telling them your own story. Experience is life's best teacher, and what better way to help your children understand and embrace their differences than by sharing all of your own. Tell them how you felt like you didn't fit in growing up, and that it's ok to stick out and stand out sometimes—that they have the power to choose their moments. Being different is being unique, and that's something special they should highlight and cherish no matter who they're with or where they go.
With extremist attacks and hate crimes happening all over the world, should we explain or avoid such topics with our children?
Hi there, I started watching the news with my eldest son, Nicholas, when he turned 8. The discussion goes two ways: I ask and listen to his opinion, then I share my point of view without preaching, judging or censoring too much. Children learn best this way, when they feel heard and involved, and you’ll be able to instill your educated perspective on such sensitive issues clearly. A lot of people rather shelter their children from such global issues and violence but I feel kids are sure to find out through social media and the internet, so why not help them understand what's going on from the get-go. This way your child can make educated observations on what's going on in the world, rather than shunning away from it or being swayed by random opinions online.
What generally exposes children to racism and discrimination, and how can we avoid that? Should we even avoid it?
How should we react when our parents make a sensitive remark about another race in front of our children?
What are the key differences between "not racist" and "anti-racist"? And how do both affect racism altogether?
Hi Anu, it is important to recognize the distinction between being “not racist” and being "anti-racist". A person who is "not racist" tends to avoid conversations or confrontations about race altogether. By disregarding these issues, it suggests that racism doesn't exist or is someone else’s problem, which is the complete opposite of effecting change. An "anti-racist" is someone who is vocal about their views against systemic racism and how to overcome things like racial differences and disparities. Parents should also remember that the first step to raising an anti-racist child, is to be an anti-racist parent.
How early should we start teaching our children to embrace and respect different cultures in Singapore?
Hi Vanessa, as early as possible! In ways and methods that are appropriate for their level and stage of development, of course. Not only are parents the primary educator of children, they are the key source of guidance that can help shape their natural qualities in either positive or negative ways depending on what we teach, show and exemplify. For babies, you can start with books or learning videos featuring people of different backgrounds, and as they grow older, you can set an example of having a diverse array of friends yourself, which will encourage them to forge friendships with people from all walks of life.
Are children actually colour blind, and that their upbringing and environment is what instills racism?
Hi Kimberly, great question. Children are most certainly not colour blind. One of the biggest misconceptions that parents have is that their children don’t notice race unless it is pointed out to them—and that children only become racist if they are taught to be. But research shows the opposite: Kids can naturally develop racial prejudice unless their parents or teachers directly engage with them about it. Babies notice physical differences, including skin colour, from as early as 6 months. Studies have shown that by age 5, children can show signs of racial bias, such as treating people from one racial group more favourably than the other. Ignoring or avoiding the topic isn’t protecting children, it’s leaving them exposed to bias that exists wherever we live. Children who encounter racism, can be left feeling lost while trying to understand why they are being treated a certain way, which in turn can impact their long-term development and well-being, as well as trigger yet another cycle
Is there such a thing as minority and/or majority syndrome? How can we prevent children from it?
Hi Zoey, yes totally. Majority-minority syndrome exists especially in communities that have been divided by poisonous discrimination—like countries with cast systems and extreme income gaps. One way to prevent kids from experiencing or inflicting such views is to openly talk about privilege. Some families think ‘privilege’ is a dirty word. It shouldn’t be. Privilege doesn’t mean you’ve never struggled or had an easy life, but rather when you've reached a certain level where you can live comfortably and help others unconditionally. Race and religion should never be factors of privilege.
my baby boy is a Chinese Indian mix. I think I will have to prep him to face the society
Hi Karthik, Velvizhi, I too can identity myself with this, having 2 mixed kids myself, and raising them in not one but two foreign countries. Ironically, the causal racism we face come more from adults, as children have a natural respect amongst one another. Sometimes we get stares when we walk together as a family. One of the pressures children may face from society is that people seem to identify with only one race, with questions like “where are you from?” expecting one answer. But I help my children to cope with these pressures by establishing open communication about race and cultures, and by allowing curiousity—like conversations about skin colour and facial features. My advise to parents going through similar experiences is that we should assist our children in developing coping skills to handle biases or any confrontational questions. A good way as well is to encourage a multicultural lifestyle for the whole family, celebrating and embracing different traditions and customs—g
What are your tips to help celebrate and discuss differences and diversity with our children?
opportunity to challenge racism, demonstrate kindness and stand up for every person's right to be treated with dignity and respect.