‘Babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist. There’s no neutrality’.
At last, the correct terminology has been embedded into the early years sector. It cannot be ignored that children under the age of five years old can learn to be discriminatory against others. This blog wants to draw your attention to a new guidance that provides those of you working with small children clear strategies that can be easily followed. This guide implores early years practitioners to use the word racism/prejudice in their language so that the child/children at the setting become used to the sound of the word and when older or needed can discuss it openly and hopefully challenge it. This is not a big ask for our sector as we have intuitive, empathic and loving children in our settings. As, Ibram- Kendi, X (2020) discusses when being interviewed for his new book, ‘Anti racist babies’, “Babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist. There’s no neutrality”
Henry-Allain’s (2021) new report (please download a copy for your setting) believes that encouraging children to develop ‘inclusive, open and empathetic attitudes towards themselves and others’ is vital. Where better to provide a warm loving environment for children to learn about differences than the early years sector. ‘Unfortunately we do not live in an equal society,’ Henry- Allains states in her guidance that, ‘many people face prejudice and discrimination every day. But it is my belief that education is the best way to drive enduring change’. It is anticipated that we have come along way within the early years sector in how to challenge racism in our practice with children, parents and families, and through the environment that we design. Connelly’s (2002) research now seems a very long time ago when you consider that his research established from a sample group of South Asian children that by the age of four years old, they chose a white doll from a variety of dolls, when asked how they saw their own identity. Children learning at an incredibly young age the benefits of choosing ‘white ness’. Connelly’s observational research also uncovered qualitative responses from the children involved, which even criticised the ethnic features of the other dolls, without being prompted. Denying their own identifies and realising at such a young age the inequalities that already exist in their communities and the wider society. How sad. ‘Unfortunately we do not live in an equal society,’ states Henry-Allains (2021. P3. ) “Many people face prejudice and discrimination every day. But it is my belief that education is the best way to drive enduring change. Education may not be as visible as political activism, but it is the most powerful and reliable route to enduring change“.
Best practice concerning the sometimes difficult conversations surrounding racism /prejudice starts with you, The Early Years professional.
Here is a checklist that forces us to reflect on our own inner thoughts and how they could impact (sometimes unconsciously) on the children in your setting.
- How important is it to me to be an inclusive, anti-racist educator? What difference could that make to children and families?
- What do I already do in my life to celebrate diversity and challenge racism and other forms of prejudice?
- When in my life have I personally experienced prejudice or discrimination?
- How did I feel and what effect did it have on me?
- When in my life have I seen others experience prejudice or discrimination? How did that make me feel and what effect did it have on them?
- When in my life do I feel like I feel/felt racism towards another person? What can/did I do about that?
- When in my life do I feel like /felt any other form of prejudice towards another person because of something about their identity appearance or background?
- What can/did I do about that? How might my attitudes and experiences affect what I choose to do and offer the children I work with?
- To what extent do my personal tastes and experiences define the outer limits of what I offer the children?
- Connolly P. Racism, Gender Identities and Young Children: Social Relations in a Multi-Ethnic, Inner-City Primary School. London. Routledge.
- Ibram- Kendi, X (2020). Anti racist babies. New York. Kokila. ISBN-10 : 0593110412.
- Henry-Allain, L. (2021) The tiney guide to becoming an inclusive, anti-racist early educator. Tiney.co.uk https. ://drive.google.com/file/d/16dX9uYy3i-4U8VJShBUrWyESgkznqoUp/view. Accessed on 10/5/21.
About the author
This blog was written by Teaching Fellow, Maggie Crowley, from our Early Childhood team.