In a world that is sadly still all too familiar with prejudice based around colour, gender and disability amongst other things, education and understanding is the biggest key to helping formulate a more inclusive society.
The Black Lives Matter protests that occurred here in the UK and across the world in the summer of 2020 shed an all-too-overdue light on the discrimination and issues faced by people of colour. Reinforced by the response to English football players in this year’s Euros competition, it’s clear that the debate over diversity issues and how to remedy them is as important as ever.
An inclusive, multicultural society is one that benefits everyone and in striving to achieve this we have to address the systemic prejudice about colour (and gender) that exists in our society.
A child is not born with bias or prejudice, it is something that is learned and it’s learned from day one. Many experts have described the process of learning bias as a lot like learning a new language. Our biological makeup determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder. Like the linguistic competence of a child who is raised bi-lingual in comparison to a child who only starts to learn another language in senior school.
It may be surprising to hear that as early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race based differences. Perhaps even more surprising is that by ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
So it would seem that exposing your child to a diverse range of people and cultures in those early years is critical. But, how how do you introduce diversity to your child?
Maybe your first port of call as a parent should be to look at who you are socialising and surrounding yourself with. Is there diversity within your friends and family? And, if not, are you making a conscious effort to forge good relationships with people outside of your own cultural bubble?
It goes without saying that the people you surround yourself with are the people your child is consequently exposed to. At such a young age, diverse socialising is not a matter of choice on behalf of the child, it’s the responsibility of the parent/s.
According to psychologist Dr Amber A Hewitt, a specialist in gendered racial social socialisation, ‘being exposed to diversity via toys has great benefits for identity development’. Therefore, seeking diversity in your choice of toys is an important way of exposing children to inclusivity. Diverse options to help build an inclusive toy box (mashable.com)
Many toys promoting diversity are emerging into the UK marketplace. One such is Dena Diversity, a brand new introduction comprising a series of tactile shapes in a variety of shades with the objective of enabling child/parent interaction to introducing the concept of differing skin colours from birth onwards.
Story telling is a great way to introduce multi culturalism to your children. Make up your own and use toys as props, or there are several books available that will open their minds to the subject. According to the NSPCC How to Promote Diversity and Inclusivity – Nursery Resources | Blog : Nursery Resources | Blog ‘Diverse books should not be considered a genre on your bookshelves. Instead, it should be the very foundation for how you choose to include the books on your shelves. Publishers are now focusing on bringing diverse books to young audiences, so include stories which are diverse and inclusive by nature, not just books that directly teach a lesson about inclusivity. Show your children that anyone can be the hero of their story.’
Digital engagement is also important and will become increasingly significant as your baby becomes a toddler. Who is on screen when you have the TV on in the background as you potter around the house? Your child is constantly exposed to digital content and they’re learning all the time so providing positive experiences and exposure to diversity is key to preventing their formulation of bias.
Above all talk about these subjects openly. Children will naturally recognise differences so it’s best to discuss them and ensure that they honour people’s identities, whatever they are, without either judgement of discrimination.