Preventing our children from having prejudices

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In Luísa´s school (back in our home town in Brazil) there were 110 children from 2 to 10 years old and less than 5 of these children were not white. The majority of the children in this school have white families and I guess (I take myself as a base) most friends (if not all) are white too.

There are many reasons for this to happen (the fact that we were in a white town/school). Basically it’s a historical, sociological, geographical issue too long for me to explore now. What I want to talk about here is the simple fact that many kids (like mine) simply are not exposed to different races and this could lead to forming some prejudice.

All over the world, kids read fairy tales. The most popular ones have stereotypes of a white beauty and the kids might end up with this idea: that princesses are white and have blue eyes  – only. But the fairy tales are not supposed to impose any prejudice.

The beauty portrayed in Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella and other stories is just a stereotype of a specific culture somewhere in Germany around the 1800s (the tales might be a lot older than this), where only white people were around.

But the fact that we tell only (or mainly) those stories of a specific time and culture can grow into a prejudice. Aren´t we all misguided by media beauty anyway?

One thing we can do is deliberately expose our kids to different races, for instance wisely using story telling.

As I was helping Luísa´s school by giving the little ones English lessons just for the fun of it, I asked the principle to let me participate in the teacher´s meetings, so I could learn more about formal education.

In the first meeting I attended, part of the agenda was about showing the kids more stories with characters of different colors. One of the teachers told about this lesson, where she brought a book called :”The Wedding of The Princess” and asked the kids who was that girl in the cover (a black girl). The kids didn´t have a clue, they couldn´t answer.

The teacher pointed the black girl and told them: “This is the princess”. And they started to say: “But she is black!”, “She has short hair”. The teachers decided they had to introduce more stories with characters of different races to the children.

Definetely one of the most beautiful photo sessions Luísa ever had

Are schools taking the family role more and more?

The principle said that once again the school has to give content to children that could be taught by the families. Interesting to see how the teachers talk about the lack of a solid education that is being held in the homes and the modern family simply delegating it to the schools.

It´s so true, isn´t it? Many families are trusting the school to teach everything to the kids. Especially the families where the parents work full time and have little time at home are simply letting the school have the role of everything concerning education.

The subject in question here (whether it´s a responsibility of the families or of the school) is inspiring a positive attitude towards the differences.

I went to pick up Luísa the day after the meeting and the teacher was showing them a book with a black old man in it. She asked: “What´s different about this grandpa?” and a kid replied: “He is dark!” The teacher said: “He is not dark, what is it?” Another kid said: “He is painted!” Two other kids agreed on that. And the teacher explained that no, he wasn´t dark or painted, that he was black, that was the color of his skin and went on explaining them more about the characteristics of black people.

Obviously none of those kids had any prejudice when they were calling the black grandpa dark or painted, they simply had never seen a black grandpa before. Moreover, they hardly see black characters in the books, in the toys, in the TV shows, movies and etc.

What a lesson for us parents to learn as well: It´s not hard to teach kids to accept the differences after all. All we have to do is show the differences to them, before it´s such a surprise they might react with fear of the unknown.

How odd that in Brazil, with around 50% of the population being black and or mixed  we perpetuate the white beauty above all the other beauties. How odd that this happens all over the world too.

It´s our job as parents and educators to mix, consume more films, toys and books of different beauties and spread the acceptance among our children.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on January 27, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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