The word prejudice means prejudging. As parents, we may do this on a daily basis without even realising; judging others based on socio-economic status, religion ‘oh another terrorist attack I bet he’s Muslim’, race ‘the best athletes are black’, age ‘old people don’t know anything’… passing comments often made in front of our children.
Renowned Harvard University Mahzarin Banaji psychologist states that children may not be able to express why they feel a certain why but those exposed to racism tend to accept it as young as age 3. In fact, this can happen in just a few days.
It may be a bitter truth for the guardian-reading, liberal lefty, middle-class parents but off hand remarks can shape how your child views the world. A lifestyle that we are not familiar with, creates fear among us. That fear leads to hatred. Despite this modern world we have seen what hatred does, we are still witnessing ethnic cleansing; babies and children killed for no crime other than their race.
We have a tendency to judge others according to our own belief system. As a parent, we should encourage our children to be open to others who are different. Too often we arrange playdates for our children with those similar to us. We encourage our children to marry people ‘like us’. If a black teenager with a hoodie walked towards you and your child, would you cross the road? These are all subtle things we may be doing unconsciously perpetuating prejudices.
Prejudice limits people. It creates a breeding ground for anger, blame and bitterness; values we would not want for our children. Today we are too often judged on our parenting skills regarding what we are feeding them, what education we are providing for them, what screen time are we letting them have. To add to the endless list, we need to think about how we are nurturing their minds too.
“What exactly was the difference?” he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pyjamas and which people wore the uniforms?
― John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas