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Racist 4 year old

I fear I may be raising a future B.N.P. politician. Part of me is quite pround that he's developing his own views but i do wish it didn't sound so national frontish.

For the last 6 months my son has been saying a few things i'm not entirely comfortable with.
It started with Asian (Pakistanian) taxi drivers he said he didn't like them because they smelled. (for the record i did not notice a smell)

His best friend is half ghanian but Rueben says he would prefer it if he was white.
and often asks me why if we are in England so many people are not talking English on the bus or whatever.
He has also asked me why there are brown people in England at all.
and recently he's started talking about how two men can not get married or be in love. (we live in England where there has been a lot of debate on this topic recently and we listen to radio four a lot where this was being discussed though i'm not sure if its related at all)

His childminders are also black and the other day he told them that black peoples skin smells of poo. So I got taken a side and told to work on it with him. She told me she was going to do some work on other cultures.

These Ideas are not something he is repeating after hearing from someone else, i'm with him 7 days a week and he spends 16 hours a week with the childminders.

He is exposed to many cultures and colours, we live in a hasdic Jewish neighborhood, with a smattering of polish and Muslims. like I already said his best friend is black, he often is the only white kid at the minders, I do wonder if this is part of the problem, just some weird reaction to being a minority.

not sure what the question is, anyone else? but also at what age is it totally not on for him to be expressing these ideas? and do you think its possible he's inherited his politics from his largely absent father who i must admit i never hear be racist but was quite homophobic but only theoretically ( meaning he was not mean to gays).

I guess feel free to discuss.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 19th, 2013 09:34 pm (UTC)
He is hearing this from someone and I suspect it is either his classmates or the minders. My daughter said some stuff about how her teachers told she was white. Her minders were Latinas. She was the only blonde haired, blue-eyed child and apparently they were discussing it. No bigotry from her, but I was bothered that she felt singled out.
Jan. 19th, 2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
I think that you might have a point, his minders are awesome but kinda religious christian and kept telling Rueben (my son) that he was Jewish (which in a small way he is but not really.) and I was a bit concerned. Also like i said we live in a hasidic neigbourhood and there has been issues where Rueben has been called a goyisha (a non jew) out playing. This happened ages ago. but my point being Rueben might be feeling a bit like the only Rue in the village.
When I asked him the first time he said that he wished his friend was white why he told me he wanted him to be like him.
Jan. 19th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
He is sick of being singled out, it sounds like. Also, those comments that he said about others are likely something that has been said about him.

Edited at 2013-01-19 09:46 pm (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
We went to America recently to visit my parents and he spent the first 3 weeks complaining that it wasn't his country and he wanted to go home. It also sounded a little xenophobic but i think it came from a different place(missing his friends), as do i think this racism thing as he clearly doesn't dislike any of them no matter how brown they are.
Jan. 19th, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
That is what I was thinking too. Children don't just start with this stuff, they hear it from people.
Jan. 19th, 2013 10:32 pm (UTC)
I agree, too. It could really be a reaction to being singled out, sort of, and "giving back" the comments he recieved, or similar/altered ones.

However, I don't have a good suggestion as to dealing with it... if it really is the surrounding that is making him feel not welcome, I'd consider changing that in the long term. you can talk to your own kids, but you can't tell other kids what to say/not to say. :-/
Jan. 19th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
I have a 4-year old that is just starting to realize the differences in his friends and other strangers. We were in the grocery store, when he asked me why the lady in front of us had "chocolate skin". I apologized to the woman and explained to my son that everyone is different and that is okay and we are all unique.

My son is also very particular about smells or heavy perfumes. I was burning incense in my home and when he arrived home with his dad, he told me his nose hurt from the smell.

Most children, especially 4-year olds do not have a filter. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and I think it's good for children to question things, but to correct them or let them know that people who are different than us are not "bad".

But keep in mind that children are sponges and will pick anything and everything they see and hear, no matter what age they are.
Jan. 20th, 2013 02:22 am (UTC)
Agree on the smells, one of my kids has a really sensitive nose, and I do think that many people give off different smells based on what they eat, the products they use and so on. Heck, I use mostly natural products & therefore some people might think I smell (I am white, FTR) but I think a lot of other people 'smell' because of the highly scented products they use that irritate my nose.
Is there something you can relate to him about different smells not necessarily being bad (and it not being polite to comment)? Eg does he love garlic and have garlic breath sometimes, is there some sort of bubble bath/body wash/soap he uses that has a noticeable smell that he may love but others mightn't?
Jan. 19th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
He may not be hearing these messages from you, but is he hearing messages of inclusion and celebrating differences from you? Is he hearing from you that love happens between all sorts of different people? Is he hearing from you that skin comes in all different colors (and, uh, scents, I guess?) and that one is not better or worse than another? How do you respond when he makes these statements or asks these questions?
Jan. 19th, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
i tend to ask him why when i can to get an idea of what he's thinking. The discussion about the taxi driver just got silly as I was insisting he didn't smell and being dismissed.
on the gay marriage thing I asked him what about Andy and Jun (my best friend and partner) and rue turned to me and said who's Jen?
I'm not saying i'm the most pc person on the planet but I do move in rather mixed circles and I kinda thought this issue would not come up for me as we do see different colours and cutures every day.
Jan. 20th, 2013 03:03 am (UTC)
Just because you see them doesn't mean he's being taught to love and accept them.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 20th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
Yeah, when my daughters started asking, I used our cats as an example, asking if our kitty was grey or orange or brown or white (or missing a leg, for a different conversation about people-different-than-us), would we love him just as much? Yes, of course, we don't love our kitty because of what color he is, we love him because he is fun and sweet and a good kitty. Just like cats, people come in lots of colors too, and what is important is who they are, not what they look like.
Jan. 19th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
I teach at a Muslim private school and am nonmuslim. My daughter attends the preschool there because her main teacher is a friend of mine (also nonmuslim) and my daughter is the only nonmuslim in her class. She is 4, with 4 year olds her teacher's assistant is Muslim, and they do take Arabic class once a day. The arabic teacher has told my daughter she is Muslim and it became a HUGE issue, because we are no Muslim and I explained we were Jewish (with a Christian twist, because one of my parents is Jewish, one is Christian but I am Jewish, by choice, and my daughter is raised knowing both Christianity and Judaism). At her school though, I know the two Muslim teachers have told her things (mainly because I discuss it with her American teacher when she comes home saying things) because she has told me I do pray right before and made a big stink about being not muslim because everyone at school is muslim.

I know she is only 4 (my daughter) but she is already understanding the difficulty of being a minority I guess because for a few weeks she wanted to be Muslim. Now she wants to be Jewish with a Christian twist, but it was a few weeks of her feeling upset by being different. So maybe this is your child's reaction to a similar situation of being different?
Jan. 20th, 2013 12:24 am (UTC)
I don't think kids are naturally racist. Either he is "hearing things" or somehow picking it up from culture, or he's just testing limits (figured out this sorts of thing gets certain reactions and attention from people), etc.

In any case I wouldn't stress. He's only 4-- plenty of time to reform his views :)
Jan. 20th, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
Start now reading him books like these. My girls love The Colors of Us, in particular. We intentionally selected some dolls that had other skin types, in part because of NurtureShock's article on the subject of teaching your kids about racism. Here's the article. It gives some good strategies, and has worked well for us- a lot of white parents avoid talking about race because they feel like it's taboo, or that kids are naturally colorblind- but they aren't. They see and understand early on. So, I guess I would have started having conversations about it earlier so that you could talk about. I'm sure others can give you lists of anti-homophobic books for children- King and King comes to mind.

Anyway, that would be a start, and you know- it seems like he's talking a lot about how people smell, so don't make that off-limits either. Everyone has their own scent, and people do smell different. But different doesn't mean bad- and that's the important part to get across to him. I wouldn't blame his absent father for either of these issues, but solving the problem does start at home. And hey, maybe provide his minders with a few of these books, and talk to them about how this is upsetting for you, and you want to make sure that he's getting the 'different is ok' message from them as well as you, for the sake of continuity.

Edited at 2013-01-20 01:08 am (UTC)
Jan. 20th, 2013 01:27 am (UTC)
Seconding the advice in this comment. NOT talking about it; assuming default setting is NOT racism when even babies NATURALLY sort people according to color and sex and age is something that needs to be addressed.
Jan. 20th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
This- don't blame it on the minders, or the father. Educate the child! There are wonderful resources out there to correct your child's behaviour.
Jan. 20th, 2013 11:26 am (UTC)
no i dont really blame his dad, though i kinda like the idea of discovering politics is written on the genetic code. And I think the childminders are awesome but sometimes I do think they have singled him out as a jew (which he isn't even) and i wonder if he just wants everyone to be like him and given he's 4 it just ends up sounding a bit wrong in his use of language.
Jan. 20th, 2013 05:37 am (UTC)
a lot of white parents avoid talking about race because they feel like it's taboo, or that kids are naturally colorblind- but they aren't. They see and understand early on.

Exactly. There have been studies that show that if parents never have discussions about race, the kids will be more likely to become racists. If parents actively talk about race in an age-appropriate way ("some people look different than us and that is okay") the children are less likely to become racist. You can't just ignore it. Kids notice the differences on their own and they need to be talked to about it, because children have a natural tendency to want to be around kids just like them- this is why kids go through the "cooties" phase.
Jan. 20th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
The only way to change his mind is to correct his views. It doesn't matter who's telling him this or where he's hearing it from or if it's his own observations, the bottom line is that you need to educate and correct him.

It started with Asian (Pakistanian) taxi drivers he said he didn't like them because they smelled. (for the record i did not notice a smell)
Tell him that smelling different doesn't a bad person make.

His best friend is half ghanian but Rueben says he would prefer it if he was white.
Tell him that changing his friend's skin wouldn't make him a better friend, and that he's racist for thinking that white skin is better than brown skin. Explain to him what racism is and why it has hurt so many people.

and often asks me why if we are in England so many people are not talking English on the bus or whatever.
Tell him that English does not have to be spoken, that England is a land with many different kind of people from all over the world, and English isn't their only language.

He has also asked me why there are brown people in England at all.
Tell him that they are English too.

and recently he's started talking about how two men can not get married or be in love. (we live in England where there has been a lot of debate on this topic recently and we listen to radio four a lot where this was being discussed though i'm not sure if its related at all)
Tell him that love is love, and that gay and lesbian couples feel the same love as straight couples.
Jan. 20th, 2013 11:23 am (UTC)
sure think i've done all of this, i have now been having these conversations for about 6 months. hence considering that he might just be naturally racist. i'm not entirely serious but to me some days it seems like it.
Jan. 20th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
Check out this site: http://loveisntenough.com/

I've found it helpful in that I plan to use some of the ideas when my son gets to that age when stuff like this happens. My husband's family is very diverse and our jobs keep us in diverse circles. He's 2 now so I'm trying to be prepared.

Good luck!
Jan. 20th, 2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
This is a really good article: http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/africology/faculty/upload/children_colorblind.pdf

It helped me when my son was going through a similar phase.
Jan. 20th, 2013 03:26 pm (UTC)
At 4 yrs. old, children can be told that it is inappropriate to say mean things about how people look or smell. It is not okay and there should be consequences for acting out in that way.
If this has been going on for 6 months, he has not gotten the message that it is wrong. It is wrong, it is racist, and I would be so ashamed to hear my child say any of those things. THAT is the message he needs to hear.
Jan. 20th, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
He is definitely hearing this somewhere; it's just not the sort of thing a four year old would come up with on his own. Television, perhaps?

Also, I don't think "proud" is the word I would use if my child was spouting awful nonsense like this.
Jan. 21st, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
We don't even have a television and i am begining to think these comments are based on his understanding of conversations i've had with him, about the counties various languages come from, we host people in our house from all over the world frequently and some times there is a language barrier.

what I mean is i'm really proud that my son does have his own thoughts on things.
yes, the things hes saying are akward at best but i'm still impressed that he's not just parroting me.

on saturday he was watching a thing about tanks on the telly with his 1/2 brother and said "battles are really terrible, do you know that" which was a direct quote from me almost. So even though his original thoughts do border on the terrible i'm pleased he is confident enough to think it and say it, even if after i want to hide him in my bag.

Jan. 20th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
I have no advice, but just wanted to come here to say the father of my children says racist things a lot and I'm terrified they will learn horrible things from him.
I can't censor him, so how do I combat the shit he says?
Jan. 21st, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
See thats harder, i think Rueben my son is no where near racist, he's very friendly to everyone and clearly doesn't really have an issue, though currently he might say he has. I just happened to of pulled the lucky card of the kid who likes to say loud awkward things that happen to be very culturally sensitive.(i think he might get a differing kind of attention from me by doing this)

In your situation i guess you can try and model the opposite, and try to show your kids that stereotypes aren't true, there might be some good resources mentioned by others above. Good luck, but to be sure loads of the older generation was/is racist and it becomes less and less popular a point of view i'm sure your kids will end up fine.
Jan. 27th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
I'm curious if he's getting picked on some by other kids at day care? I've seen some kids at the playground picking on younger children on occasion here. I noticed my daughter's behavior changes around the bullies. This sounds like the stuff kids say to each other sometimes or repeat from their parents. If he's one of the few kids of his type there, he may be getting some racism from other kids. That would make his comments self-defence really rather than some kind of innate racism. I'm with the other writer's; kids' learn racism from other people.

I'd be really concerned with the 'Gay' comments...PRIMARILY because if he IS getting picked on and reacting then he may well be getting called gay. I've known a few people that experienced this kind of gay name calling as children and it's VERY traumatic for kids. 4 year olds are too young to make decisions about being gay or straight... and sexually oriented name calling is extremely damaging to children's self-esteem.

My daughter is not far off in age and repeats stuff she hears from all sorts of sources... like TV. I was shocked when she started speaking Spanish from listening to a TV show and shouting at the Cat in Spanish. She tends to be kind of mean to the Cat, in what looks like jealousy...Cat sits by Mom and my daughter starts shouting at the Cat "That's MY place!" and "Bad Cat!"

She seems to be at a stage of shouting a lot when she does not get her way. I have a hard time not laughing when she does. It's completely cute. I'm afraid I tend to start giggling when adults start shouting too. She's repeated one or two really offensive "sexual" comments from some source I am not aware of. It was quite bizarre, she sounded like a 20 year old. She gets in trouble for age-inappropriate offensive comments.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )


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