I need racial advice......

Lisa - posted on 01/14/2010 ( 26 moms have responded )

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My daughter told me a story this morning, this happened yesterday and I did not know what to say to her, for the first time I think. There is a little boy in her 3rd grade class that she talks about all the time- the poor little guy seems to be the class trouble maker and is always getting into trouble. Anyway, yesterday he was apparently picking on some of the girls, calling them names, swearing etc so my daughter took it upon herself to tell her teacher. The rest of the day every time she or her friends were near him he would tell other kids to stay away from her, that she only wanted to get him in trouble because he is black. I did not even know until today that he is black. Although we are not perfect we are a good Christian family, we are not racist and are raising our children to love all people as human beings. So my question is- how to deal with this and explain his comments to my daughter when she doesn't have a racist bone in her body?

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Taj - posted on 01/15/2010

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First, let me begin by encouraging you to reinforce to your daughter that standing up for, and doing, the right thing (no matter what others may think of that choice) is never wrong. It might be hard. It might have painful consequences, but it is not wrong.



Second, if this child was behaving as she has described and if she was trying to stop that behavior by telling her teacher, explain that she made a good choice. Her choice was to ask an adult for help when she or her friends were being mistreated by another student. This reinforces her decision making skills.



Third, as for the boy, I am hearing a lot of assumptions in some of the other comments. Assumptions about his parents' parenting skills, assumptions about him. I don't think we know from your post anything about this child other than he seems to have some trouble in school and doesn't always say nice things to the other children. And, from his comment to your daughter, he is aware that racism exists against blacks. I don't think that any of those things are definitive proof that he "this little boys' parents are teaching him wrong." That's QUITE a judgmental and presumptuous statement for someone to make about a child and parents that they don't know.



Third grade is 8-9 years old. Whether you teach them about it or not, kids do see color (unless they're blind). Children are capable of seeing and recognizing color at about 3 years old. The fact that a child sees color certainly doesn't make him/her racist and I'm sure it was difficult for your daughter to understand why her classmate labelled her as someone who is trying to get him into trouble because he is black. The fact that this might not be true as to your daughter's intentions and underlying motivations, does not however mean that this is not truly what this young boy believes based on his subjective impressions. This doesn't make him a bad kid or poorly parented. It makes him a separate individual with a different perspective that comes from walking through life in a different color skin. Since you can't know what he has experienced or seen to make him see the world through this filter, you can't invalidate or negate it.



What you can do is explain to your daughter that she is only responsible for her own actions and intentions. In this instance, her actions were based on his inappropriate actions. She made the right choice to ask for help from an adult. Her intentions are known only to her, but if she made her choice for the reasons she said then reinforce that she did nothing wrong and that it is not her responsibility to worry about his subjective impression of her actions.



It might be a good time to discuss race and the different experiences that come along with different races with her. The idea that she is unaware of race is naive.



My son is also in third grade. As a child of bi-racial heritage (black/Chinese) he is aware of race. He first became aware when children in his pre-school (age 4) started asking him why his skin was brown, how it got that way and "what are you?" He has been asked some variation of those questions since then. Most recently, by a classmate in third grade. He is proud of his racial heritage and these questions do not offend us. Children are naturally curious. But to ignore the issue of race is disingenuous and dangerous. Race is not taboo. There is no reason you should want your children to be oblivious to it. Racism and race are different discussions and topics. Both should be addressed so that your child is aware that there are lots of different types of people in the world and that their experiences differ based on how they walk through the world.



Just my .02 for what it's worth. Good luck!

Rebecca - posted on 02/26/2010

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i live in south africa, where race was an enforced category for a long time, and it is a legacy we are still living with today. my kids are blonde, blue eyed beauties in a country where this is still treated as the IDEAL way to be. i was actively against apartheid, and still today spend a large part of my life tackling these issues, and trying to build a more equitable society. we have friends from very poor areas and friends from all kinds of 'races'. several of my oldest daughters first friends were not white and she never had a problem with it.

as soon as she started pre-school, however, racial issues came up and she started making anti-black remarks. we were not happy, but we also recognise that in our society -- and its global, not just south africa -- these attitudes are likely to be picked up by our children in any number of places. we didn't immediately lay into her for these remarks, because we wanted to get to the bottom of why she even believed this when she had friends that she got on well with who are black. turns out she didn't know what black people were -- because to her, she knew light brown (like us) and dark brown people (her idea of black people) and every shade of brown in between. however, she also later started not wanting to play with certain of her black friends, and again we tried to get to the bottom of it. this time is was a CLASS issue, because these black friends live in horrible houses, poky houses with no bathrooms, really crappy furniture, no carpets etc and they have virtually no toys. going to visit friends with no toys was a major negative to her. the next time race came up, when we dug into it, it was a cultural issue, because the township girls don't have toys they have all kinds of games they play and they dance A LOT; my daughter felt uncomfortable because she doesn't know the games, and her style of dancing is completely different. next it was the issue of language -- the township girls CAN speak english, but among themselves they speak afrikaans and xhosa, and my daughter is not fluent in either of these. next, we moved her to a different nursery school, where most (about 70%) of the kids were muslim, and she got teased for not being muslim.

each time this race issue came up - and whatever the issue was it was always framed in racial terms- we addressed it, and even from pre-school age, explained the history of racism in the world, some about slavery, and a bit more about apartheid. she is now 6 and she knows a substantial amount on the subject. she has now started 'big school', and she is in a school where most of the children are black. even though apartheid has ended most white parents do not send their kids to a school where this is the case -- they rather cough up for private education to make sure their kids only interact with a limited number of black kids, but that their interactions are predominantly with white kids.

most of our white friends have raised a lot of eyebrows about where we chose to send our daughter, however, she is very happy there. racial incidents have already occurred (she started there in mid-january, when the school year starts here) -- she has been told she can't join games because she is blonde, and she has come home asking why boys prefer blondes and all the boys fancy her because of her blonde hair.

it's an illusion to pretend that race does not exist IN OUR SOCIETY. we can argue -- and i do argue -- that it is an artificial construct, nevertheless it is a construct that has REAL effects and real consequences in our world... we should not pretend this is not so -- the only people who can pretend that are 'white' people because we are MOSTLY (not always) protected from racial prejudice substantially affecting our lives.

therefore, it is highly likely that this boy has experienced racial discrimination, that he is aware that people look down on black people, and that black people often do get into 'trouble' ONLY because of their skin colour. i would explain this to your daughter; as well as explaining to her that if she had no racial thought towards him, she did the right thing. but you do need to help her understand that boy has a different experience of the world BECAUSE of the colour of his skin.

secondly, you need to realise that while your daughter might not have a racist bone in her body, race is an issue that she needs to confront and face up to BECAUSE as i said, it exists in our society, whether we believe it is a meaningful distinction or not.

one of the posters above suggested a meet between the boy and your daughter to explain their different perspectives. i agree: it would be good for your daughter to learn about another child's experience of racism, and it would be good for him to hear that your daughter has no issue with the colour of his skin, but she does have an issue with his language. this could be a really positive encounter for both of them!

Melissa - posted on 01/14/2010

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I would just tell her not to worry about it and that you look at people for who they are on the inside not what they look like on the outside. It doesn't matter what color they are, wrong is wrong. And it seems to me that this little boys parents are teaching him wrong. That when he gets into trouble that it's because he's black, not because he did something wrong. And tell her that if he keeps saying that, for her to tell him that she would tell on anyone no matter what color they are if they said the things he said. It's not right to misbehave and swear in school, and if a white boy or girl did it, she would tell on them too. I hope this helps. Best of luck!!

26 Comments

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Jacqueline - posted on 02/28/2010

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First of all, I would have a family talk and get your daughter, mom and dad together to pray for the boy. Help your daughter to understand that rules are to be followed and even in the area of discipline. Can you reach out to the family and see if there may be a need your family can help the boys' family in?



Secondly, if the situation has risen to the level of safety measures, get your daughter, mom and dad together with a school counsellor and teacher to see what they recommend for the situation. Document your correspondences and actions involved in case it rises to an unfortunate higher level of child safety.



Finally, God commands us to love our enemies and to pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. As you state you're a Christian family, we can rest in the hope that GOD is sovereign over all. Let's ask God to give us His grace to overcome evil with good. God bless.

Roxanne - posted on 02/26/2010

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My family is a bi-racial family, my 2 older sons are Mexican & white, I have been with my husband (who is black) since they were 3 & 1 and had my youngest 7 yrs ago (who is black & white). We are also a christian family who has tought our children that God made us all different in some way & that he loves us all. The issue of brown skin, black skin, pink skin (that would be me..LOL) straight hair, curly hair, brown hair, black hair, blond hair.....have all come up at one point or another, because that list discribes my house hold!

Even still in the 6th grade my oldest got into an arguement with another student who was calling him names, he turned around and called him the "n" word. When talking to him later he said he heard another student use the word & the kid got upset & since the kid was calling him names he called him that one. When me and his dad (who is black) sat down and talked to him and explained what this word meant - he was devistated that he had used it, because he truly didn't know the meaning. On his own he sat and wrote a full page appology to the boy & his family, and asked us to talk to the prinipal to get permission to read it to the other student. He and this student later became & still are friends.

My point: don't always judge a family or child on one action....kids make mistakes.....using these mistakes as a teaching point & growing and learning from there is what is most important. I could only immigine what his friends parents originally assumed of my family and what values we have tought our kids the day my son made that mistake.

God Bless & Good luck.

Rebecca - posted on 02/26/2010

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and also, just like women cannot walk in dark places at night without considering their gender, people from races other than 'white' do not have the privelege of being able to ignore race! only white people ever have the privelege of pretending it doesn't exist -- everyone else has had to experience racial prejudice.

Razmiya - posted on 02/26/2010

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I think you should discus this problem with the class teacher and solve the problem...

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Fantastic post Taj loo really well put.:)i hope we all&especially lisa take something away from your post as you said it perfectly.good luck to all.:)

Christine - posted on 01/27/2010

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Definitely talk to the teacher about seeing the school counselor and it might be a good idea to suggest both students speak with them together. Maybe the counselor can have the boy explain why he believed she was racist. It would likely shed a lot of light on the entire situation. By having a third party asking the questions, hopefully it wouldn't put too much pressure on the kids to give 'the right answer', just the truth. Good luck!

Amy - posted on 01/26/2010

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I work for our county school system, and this is what I would do if it were my child. I also have a 3rd grader and know how hard it is for kids this age. I would explain to my daughter that God made us all in His image, and that even though we are different, He loves us all. I would also tell her that there are some people who think they are better than others and have been taught to feel a certain way towards a group of people. I would tell her that what he said was wrong.
Next, I would talk to her teacher and tell her what transpired between the two of them. If it happened again, I would tell the teacher and also make an appointment to talk to her principal. Bullying comes in many different forms, and I would consider an ongoing verbal slandering as bullying.
As far as your faith, do not make any excpetions. I like the verses, John 15:12-13, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." It is important to show her that no matter how difficult or mean someone can be, it is our commandment to love one another. I hope this helps.
Good Luck!
Your sister in Christ,
Amy Burnham

Kasey - posted on 01/26/2010

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Whether white, black, brown, yellow, purple, or green, this type of behavior may cause more severe issues with age. I would suggest talking to the teacher and seeing if the counselor could get involved with both children. Maybe if they could arrange times where your daughter and the little boy could be on a buddy system of sorts. This could possibly lead both into realizing that neither one is different form the other. I am not saying that your daughter is at fault, I am saying this because in my childrens' school, if two children have an issue of any type, they will be placed with each other at different points in the day. They might have to eat lunch together, or they might be the two picked to gather the kick balls after gym class, or even have their seats placed next to each other in class. Just a way of teaching them at a young age to recognize, over look, and work out their differences. I even use this at home when there is a problem between the kids.

Kasey - posted on 01/26/2010

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I have had similar situations with my children. My children are biracial and my step son is black. When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, the class bully called her the n word. And at several points I have had my step son make remarks at my children for not "being all the way black" as he would call it. I must say that in both situations, I have had to explain to my children that people, even children get this outlook from what they are taught and what they see at home. And that they just don't know any better. We live in a rural community in Tennessee, so a bit of racism is to be expected (but not tolerated) from children and adults alike. As for my step son, he lives in a different environment and in his home he is invited into adult conversations, and some of his relatives believe that white people are no good and not to be trusted, and this idea was being installed in him before he started preschool. I wish you luck with this issue, as many of us have to deal with some sort of racism or reverse racism at times. It is always a sensitive subject. With my children, I have taught them to love and accept everyone, but because of what they face every day, I have also taught them them that even though it is not right, some people do not like others because of their race, and that should love them anyways, but to rise above the comments. My hopes for your situation is that this would draw the attention of the school counselor, who might be able to talk to the young man. Maybe he is being taught this, or maybe he is having trouble at home, nobody knows until someone with the authority talks to him and tries to offer help. I have seen this type of attitude in my step son and other family members and friends. And if it is not addressed, it could lead into more trouble as they get older.

Catherine - posted on 01/26/2010

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I would guess this little guy is hearing that kind of talk at home. Unfortunately that is how the world thinks. This is an awesome opportunity for you to walk your daughter thru the love for others that you want her to have, after all this is something we all come against at some point in our lives, better to know how to handle it sooner than later. Definetly speak w/ the teacher and put your heads together on this one....speak w/ like-minded parents in her class if you can and I'm sure you will come up w/ a plan that helps demonstrate Gods' love to this little boy w/out compromising your daughters well-being. Above all pray w/ your daughter about it, God may reveal something to one or the both of you as to how to handle the situation. Be Blessed!

Adriana - posted on 01/26/2010

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Hello Karen,
As I stated who is better than the other, I mean no one. We are individuals one of a kind, Human Beings that's all.

Elaine - posted on 01/22/2010

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God Bless You Darlin' and your Family...all good things for 2010.....I hope the Lord silence his small hatred cause he's not aware of what hes doing. I pray he guides your daughter on the same road, steady and true...she sounds to be fine and ready for her small world...Much love

Antoinette - posted on 01/22/2010

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I can only tell you what I said and continue to say to my girls as we live around a few kids who act this way. Let it go because the problem is he doesn't know what he is doing is wrong. If you carry yourself with respect then God will take care of the rest. You may feel pain because he may say something, but remember you are human and must follow your heart. If you feel you did the right thing by telling the teacher then you did the right thing. Your friends will always know who you really are and those who laugh for his ignorance now wont laugh for very long as evil does not rule.

I hope this helps.

Elaine - posted on 01/22/2010

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I would began by telling her He probably got that idea by listening to his father and mother discuss something in private that wasn't meant for him to over -hear, and parents didnt know he was listening. Kids don't understand alot of what they hear and honestly misunderstood them,this is one of those times.l would tell her the classmate hasnt learned yet to take reaponsiblity for himself yet, he still blames others,he will learn maybe she should remind him next time he says something like that to her friends.

Adriana - posted on 01/22/2010

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Hi Taj,
Great post, I agree with you to educate our children about race, but at what point, when an individual is attack with a question of race, or should we not wait for this to happen? As you mentioned not knowing about race is ignorant, perhaps to some it is, but not to all either, it is not surprising and yet hard to believe that we still play this role of victims in race. I agree that discrimination exist by some people, but again not by all. This great country is made of great people and they are people from many cultures, every where we go there is diversity at least to the places I have been. That is what people should be aware, that this country is for all of us to share, and not to be competative about who is better than the other.

Adriana - posted on 01/22/2010

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Hi Lisa,
I would not mention the race, but would tell, for instance my daughter to ignore his comments, that he is upset because she stood up to something that is wrong for any person to do to others, and inforce that what she did is OK, not too many children have her courage, and I am happy for her. I would always ask her, how her day went, and if that child bothers her make sure she lets you know, also it has nothing to do with race, now a days I would have to say that it would be unethical to even say that, there is so much diversity that I have to question, who is racist? My compliment for teaching your daughter to love a person, and that is the way we shall all see ourselves as people, as human beings, and respect one another.

Angie - posted on 01/20/2010

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Poor little boy has already learned how to play the race card. Let your daughter know that while it's nice that she tried to protect other children, there are often consequences to that - in this case being wrongly labeled a racist. I'm so sorry that she is dealing with this at such a young age. Keep doing what you're doing, you are raising a sweet compassionate child...

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Bypass the racism and get to the root of the problem; some people make excuses to hide behind when they are in trouble. Whether it be race, gender, disability, class, status, etc., there are some in this world who refuse to take responsibility for their shortcomings. This, I think, is a learned behavior and many children display lack of responsibility because they see it in their parents' attitudes, if not their actions.

Perhaps showing her the bigger picture will help explain the problem without focusing on details.

Debbie - posted on 01/15/2010

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The first thing I have to say is that it a sad fact that a boy of 8 or 9 years has made such a comment. In reality, he should be too young to know about racism but the fact is there are some who go through it regardless of age. I would say to you as good christain parents firstly is to pray for this boy. He has obviously been through or seen racism first hand to feel the need to make such comments. Secondly talk your daughters teacher about the comment and whole situation. School aswell as at home is a good place to teach our young about differences in people. I have a 7year old and am quite grateful for the school she attends, they address issues like these thoroughly and make it fun. Be open with your daughter with regards to differences in people as a whole. Making sure she knows that everyone is different but it doesn't matter because no one really is the same colour, when you think about it. Make it fun, not serious. They do understand and what you teach them now is fundamental to a better future.

Karen - posted on 01/14/2010

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It's a shame that your DD had to learn this at such a young age but I think it's a valid teachable moment. First of all, she needs to be applauded for having the courage to stand up for someone who was being picked on. That takes guts and shows a real leader. The explanation that I would give is that his reaction could have been something like "because I was wearing a green shirt", it's just that he has heard, read, or learned that his excuse is simply what he feels is the surest way to get out of trouble, blame someone else. He might have heard a minor remark from someone else and is trying it out to see if it helps keep him out of trouble. Just because someone says something doesn't mean it's true. Tell your DD that it's just like blaming the other guy for decking him - he started it - doesn't mean it's OK to finish it (why do you think the NHL penalizes retaliation) but the boy is just trying to find an excuse, it just happens to be an ugly one. She just needs to stand her ground, keep repeating to other people and herself that she was simply being a good friend and righting a wrong. Tell her that what the other boy is saying is just a label and doesn't mean it's true and not to keep her from standing up for what is right in the future. Doing the right thing won't always be easy, though. She did a good thing and she should be proud of herself (and you can tell her I said that, too, and I'd hope that she would do the same for my DD and my DD would do the same for her if it happened again).

Natasha - posted on 01/14/2010

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I think I would first acknowledge that it is very courageous to stand up for what is right, and that she was very brave to tell the teacher when other kids are being mistreated. It is not an easy thing to do, especially with the kind of peer pressure that this little boy is putting on her. Have her focus on the positive of her actions, not the negative of his reaction, and explain that she can only change what she can control, not what she can't. The boy can get mad and make racial remarks, but there's not much your daughter can do to change his behavior. The thing she CAN control is her own behavior, so she can keep doing the right thing by letting the teacher know when she or other children or being hurt by someone's actions.

Shelly - posted on 01/14/2010

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If she doesn't not look at race now, I would not bring it to her attention. It will make her if you do. I would start by having a talk with the Teacher in this classroom sounds to me like he is a bully and already in the third grade?? It would raise some serious questions in my mind like who is teaching this little boy to act this way.. Take it from someone who was abused and very against child abuse. You know your daughter is not at tattletale and so does she explain to her that she is to go to the teacher so that her & her friends don't get hurt or bullied..Then go to the school "principal if you really think he is a problem and ask them to look into it. 9 times out of 10 people miss the signs of an abused child.. And just because he is not being beaten does not mean he's not seeing and hearing it.
I really hope this helps I have 5 kids and it's the same thing that I tell mine:)

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