Photo by Leandro Valentino
American’t: The Corporate Plantation is among hundreds of materials discussing the pervasiveness of racism. However, despite it being a hot topic, most children remain ignorant.
There’s been a heightened intensity of discussions about social injustices—one that has taken most of the limelight centers on racism. Following consecutive brutalities done with race as the focal reason, more people have taken a firm stand and revolted against it. However, despite the world raising its voice, most of its younger population might still be in the dark regarding the issue.
Children are deemed naïve and frail. They’re gullible, impressionable, and likely easily hurt physically and mentally. For most aspects of life, this holds true. Thus, they must have their parents’ or an adult’s guidance and protection.
But is leaving them out in such a discussion indeed safeguarding them?
Children and Racism
Adults may shun children away from discussions involving matters they believe are more significant than what children can process. They think, in doing so, they’re protecting children from the world’s cruelties. But more often than not, they’re doing the exact opposite.
The children’s ignorance of these issues makes them more vulnerable. Racism doesn’t choose an age for its victims. Nor do racists and the prejudiced pick who they’ll victimize.
With society treating people differently based on their wealth, influence, and race, children experience racism even before they’re born. As they grow older, they may encounter unfair access to general services like healthcare or education. They may be victims of racial slurs. Others may even see it through their parents receiving the shorter end of the stick.
The bottom line is that racism is a pervasive issue that everyone – even children – suffers from. It greatly shapes their identity, self-esteem, and how they generally see their worth. And without ample knowledge about it, children may never know if they’ve fallen victim to its cruelty.
So, how should such a significant issue be brought up and discussed with the younger generations?
Conversations About Racism
Children will have difficulties wrapping their minds around complex matters like racism. Adults may have to water down explanations about them. But the intricacy of this statement isn’t what matters. No matter how oversimplified it may be, it’s still more important that children have an ounce of understanding of what’s truly happening.
Make Them Recognize Differences
While racism, in general, is a massive and complicated matter, it still boils down to differences. Parents can utilize the obvious, what children can observe. Instead of jumping straight into accounting unreasonable cruelties, parents can first let their children point out the obvious.
Let them acknowledge that everyone is different– some with differences a little bit more noticeable than others. This can then become an opportunity to elaborate on how people use this as a source of inequality and unfairness.
In making children aware of the issue, the parent also must understand its intricacies. No significant information should be left out. This can be worrying when it comes to white adults. However, this shouldn’t be an issue if they know its history and how the system has changed.
To start, parents can rely on reading materials like American’t by King Bell. Likewise, reading books with varying intensities or volumes of the narrative is essential to see the issue from a bigger perspective.
Be Patient With Their Questions
Even with their little knowledge, children can be complex thinkers. Children tend to dig deeper into things they may find interesting. They enjoy successively asking the what, why, and how of things as they start making sense of the world.
Parents or adults with responsibilities beyond spending time with their children may think it’s pointless or bothersome to answer these questions. Most significantly, these may be too trivial or absurd from their perspective.
But it’s important to remember that making children understand the matter in their ways is essential. And one of which is by answering every question they will think of.
Teach Them About Empathy
One of the reasons why people may quickly become prejudiced is because they lack the fundamental value of empathy. The thing is, values like this are learned behaviors rather than innate mechanisms. And by discussing this issue, acknowledging what children know, and correcting mistakes they commit, adults are helping them develop social awareness. This can further help them develop empathy.
Discussions about racism may be difficult with the concept’s complexity. But such a conversation can be possible by breaking it down, talking to children little by little, and adjusting to their learning pace. All the adults need are patience and ample knowledge on their part.
Change is vital regarding racism. And this change starts with the younger generation.