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  • Kids Do Notice Different Skin Colors, But It's Up To Us Parents Not To Make It About Race

    We should teach our kids early on that racial prejudice is not acceptable.
    by May de Jesus-Palacpac .
Kids Do Notice Different Skin Colors, But It's Up To Us Parents Not To Make It About Race
PHOTO BY @Prostock-Studio/iStock
  • South African bet Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019 last Monday, and people around the world are rejoicing. Her closing statement at the pageant has been circulating on social media like wildfire:

    I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — was never considered to be beautiful. I think it is time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.

    Zozibini’s mention of “children” reminded me of a video that went viral in 2018 of children discriminating against another child in a playground in Spain. 

    The little boy, who only wanted to play, was pushed off the slide, hit in the head, and screamed at, “You’re not white!” by young kids, in front of his mother. 

    What made it more horrifying was that the parents of these children knew what was going on, but they just stood by doing nothing. Apparently, this antiquated behavior still exists and continues to plague our society to this day. 

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    I was a sophomore in high school when I first noticed an ad for an international fashion brand that featured different races together in one picture. I thought it was beautiful and quietly lauded the people of color posing confidently with their Caucasian counterparts. 

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    Having grown up in a culture where the word “negro” is intended to be derogatory, and words like “chekwa” (Chinese) and “bumbay” (Indian) were coined as insults to other heritage, I thought that the brand was making quite a powerful statement.

    It sometimes bewilders me how mistreatment of other people of color has seeped its way into our culture when we, Filipinos, are a people of color ourselves. I said the same thing when I admonished my 8-year old the other day who mimicked a racial slur from a YouTube personality he watches.

    He didn’t really understand that the lines he learned were discriminatory because it was disguised as humor, but I was not going to let it slide. As a parent, it is my God-mandated responsibility to correct my children’s wrong notion on people and teach them what is right.

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    “When you judge another person, you are permitting others to treat you the same way,” I reminded my son.

    Incidentally, I came across an article on Love What Matters about a little girl who asked a black woman named Cynthia why her skin was dark. The mother, Mary Katherine Backstrom, praised Cynthia for knowing exactly how to answer her daughter in a way that it taught her a valuable lesson too. “God made everybody different,” said Cynthia. “And isn’t that wonderful?”

    Backstrom wrote that diversity isn’t a subject we should skirt around with our kids. We must acknowledge that they do see differences in color and we must allow them to ask their questions, and we must learn to respond to them appropriately.

    Someone once said that no child is born a racist, and I agree. But they can be taught to be one. 

    According to Drs. Shaunta Anderson and Jacquelyine Douge in an article published in healthychildren.org, children as young as 2 years old can already pick up racial biases when “exposed to society.” 

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    Even without parental influence, children can learn it from the environment they grew up in and the people that surround them, moreso now in this age of technology, when kids like my impressionable 8-year old can be introduced to societal concepts by strangers they find online.

    In the same article, it says that babies as young as 6 months can see physical differences, and that at 12 years old, they would have molded into the society they’ve grown accustomed to. 

    I asked my 14-year old son about this and he says he’s noticed the differences in appearance even as a child, but didn’t think of it as a big deal. 

    “I’ve been meeting different people from different cultures for so long, it’s become normal for me to interact with anyone in the same (respectful) way,” he says.

    “It’s not about skin color,” he added. “I just know it’s wrong to treat anyone badly.”

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    Many harmful adult behavior can be avoided by nipping them in the bud. We must teach our children while they are young, before they grow up thinking racial prejudice is acceptable and normal. 

    In truth, children just want to play, make friends, and eat. They don’t really care about color, but we must still teach them.

    As English art critic, William Hazlitt, once said, “Prejudice is the child of ignorance.” Let’s take it upon ourselves to educate our children and teach them to appreciate and celebrate cultural diversity, before anyone else teaches them otherwise.

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