There is enough evidence in the history of the world to show the steep cost that societies pay when racism in its processes and institutions is not addressed and combated. In Australia, all early childhood learning frameworks mandate that all children should feel safe, secure and supported in their learning environment. Additionally, learning frameworks are underlined by the principle of respect for diversity in all forms. The following article provides strategies to ensure zero tolerance for racism in early childhood settings.
Reflect On Service Policy and Processes
It is not enough for service and educators to exude love and respect for everybody or to teach children to practice the same. It is equally important to investigate and address any evidence of racism or discrimination. A good place to start is by reflecting on the processes and policies of the service so that all invisible biases and subconscious attitudes are identified and corrected. For example, in one study, educators were asked to be on the lookout for challenging behaviours in a video clip that showed two Black children (one male, one female) and two White children (one male, one female). Researchers found that participants watched the Black boy more than any other child. Forty-two per cent of the participants reported that he required more of their attention, despite the fact that no challenging behaviours were demonstrated in the video and that all children were involved in the same level of play. This study is one of the many that demonstrate how the best-intentioned educators can harbour hidden attitudes that can creep up in practices. Making your service free from any such racist biases can be hugely effective in creating a racism-free environment.
Set Ground Rules
At the start of the school and then at regular intervals, make it clear that hurting someone on the basis of appearance is unacceptable and that though it is nice to feel proud of one’s own culture and community, that should not make them put others down. At the same time learn more about how to respond to students making discriminatory comments about appearance, food, language etc. Children are part of overlapping environments and will pick up words and gestures that they see others use. Address such behaviour immediately. The child will have a better understanding of the response if it is given straight away. Never ignore a comment that seems prejudicial or discriminatory.
Address Questions and Doubts
One of the most effective ways to combat racism is to talk about differences in a healthy way. Listen respectfully to questions and concerns raised by children about different skin colours, food habits and dresses. Instead of changing the subject or ignoring such questions, use age-appropriate language to explain that people may look, talk and eat differently but such differences make the world a richer place. Also investigate, without a non-blaming approach, why the child may be asking questions about differences. Educators are not expected to be experts but just that they give out the correct information. If you don’t know the answer to a question, then invite the children to find out more together or look up resources on having difficult conversations about racial and cultural differences with children. Above all, encourage children to act and challenge discrimination when they see it. Finally, nurture an environment of cultural competence at all times. Embed respect for diversity in a service environment, processes and teaching practices. Encourage the celebration of diverse foods, festivals, clothes, skin colours and languages but also help children to understand that there are similarities that children share like hobbies, love for parents, a favourite colour or animal. Addressing discriminatory attitudes from parents or families by pointing out your service philosophy supports cultural diversity and treating everyone with respect.
Cultural Competence In Early Childhood Settings - The following article provides information on cultural competence in early childhood settings, cultural competence in the eylf and more.
Avoiding Cultural Tokenism In Early Childhood Settings - The following article shows how as educators, we need to incorporate cultural celebrations within the setting in a sensitive and respectful manner by avoiding cultural tokenism - which is the act of making a small minimal effort towards something.
Learning Environments That Show Respect For Diversity In Early Childhood Services - The following article provides information on how you can plan learning environments that show respect for diversity.
- Viewpoint. Creating Anti-Racist Early Childhood Spaces
- Building belonging, ACECQA