Talking About Race
I’m going to be talking to you about how we can educate children that difference is good. In the last few years across the world, we have seen an uprising in response to the different types of racism that occur throughout Society. This can be a challenging topic to approach with children and young people but it’s definitely something that I encourage you to explore and to dig deeper into because they can have their own ideas formulated already.
Some of you may have heard of something called unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is something that I’m bringing up in this article because I don’t want anyone to be alarmed or troubled. If you discover, as a result, of talking to your child that they’ve maybe got a way of thinking that you wouldn’t want them to have these are often caused by unconscious biases. These are the biases that show up throughout our upbringing and our programming that even us as adults who can be very mindful and cautious at times around things like racism we still have this early programming from our own parents and grandparents who may be thought about race in a very different way back then to how we do now. We need to be aware of these unconscious biases so that we can begin to tackle them and respond and deal with them appropriately.
In speaking with children and young people, something we need to be really conscious and careful about doing is not making young people feel bad for thoughts and programming that they’ve probably received from either their peers or adults around them. We need to give them a forum to be able to express themselves but equally to be quite bold about correcting some of those ideas that they may have formulated and to challenge them on thinking patterns that they have now. This doesn’t just apply to race although that’s a big topic on the agenda right now.
Think about it if everybody was the same colour, let’s imagine we were all green. If the whole entire human race was green, I can guarantee we would still find ways to segregate from each other, be it on the shade of green that you were or different heights or different weights. The reason why this happens is that our brains notice what’s different. Your brains are designed to notice differences in the world around us so we notice what’s different and we like what’s the same and that’s just the way human beings are designed but it doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to be just because we feel more comfortable with things that look more familiar to us and are more like us. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take responsibility for stretching ourselves and starting to think in a different way and being more open-minded.
The other important thing is it’s so good for problem-solving, you know, sometimes there are ways in which other groups of people might behave or things that they might do that can actually solve a problem that you have in the right here, right now. There is a story about the vaccine for smallpox and how that was created at the time that smallpox was an epidemic which was probably, you know, not too dissimilar to what we have been going through recently. It caused a lot of casualty and chaos the scientists and the super clever people were really seeking out a way to be able to vaccinate against that disease. The solution didn’t come from the top clever people! The scientists and the doctors that were getting together didn’t have an answer.
The person that came up with this solution was actually a dairy farmer. He’d noticed that his milk mates never contracted smallpox and so it’s of no great surprise the vaccine for smallpox is bovine based. It comes from cows. Therefore, when we start looking at different groups that we perhaps not normally used to interacting with we can come up with so much more than we would come up with if we were only ever to integrate and interact with people who will most like us. This is not just down to one particular race or gender or genre of person to take responsibility for this is on all of us. All of us need to be more open-minded and more open to understanding it getting to know people who are outside of our comfort zone because when we do that then we can find lots of different solutions for current problems that we’re experiencing and we can also start to create much more harmony and unity between each other.
My challenge to you for this month is to have those conversations with your child or young person. You might not necessarily agree with the things that the child or young person is saying to you but be open to showing them alternative ways of thinking with some good hard information and evidence to back up what you’re saying so that they become more open-minded and more able to engage easily with people who are not necessarily exactly like them.
By Gemma Bailey