In many places, SOS Children’s Villages are a living symbol of the fight against racism and discrimination: our principles revolve around helping children in need, regardless of their skin colour or religion. For example, Sunnis, Shias and Christians grow up side-by-side in SOS Children’s Village Ksarnaba in Lebanon, while the children of indigenous peoples and European immigrants alike call the SOS Children’s Villages in Ecuador home, and in India, Christian children look forward to partaking in their Hindu friends’ celebrations – and vice versa!
This guide explains how intercultural understanding can be successful and how parents can talk to their children about racism.
- Explain what it’s about: what is racism?
A child-friendly explanation could look like this: “Racism means not liking someone, thinking badly of them, or being unfair and unfriendly towards them, for the sole reason that they look different and come from a different culture. For people who think like this, it makes no difference what the other person says or does. They are not interested in their opinion or hobbies, and they don’t care if the other person is nice or has a good sense of humour. That all counts for nothing.” Make it clear to your child that this behaviour is hurtful and wrong.
- Create awareness
When you’re talking to your child, draw their attention to aspects of our daily lives that are racist: if a person insults someone with a different background, that is a clear example of racism. Other examples might not be quite as obvious to your child: if someone is put at a disadvantage when looking for a job solely because their skin is a different colour, or the fact that it can be offensive to congratulate a black person, for example in Germany or France, on how well they speak German or French! They might have grown up there and see it as their home country: they do not want to be treated like they’re a foreigner.
- Check your own attitudes
Talking to children is always an opportunity to reflect and discover your own prejudices: are there situations in which I judge other people on the basis of their culture or skin colour? You always have a chance to change this.
- Bring the world into your child’s room
Often, the only culture children come across when playing is their own: in books, almost all the children are white, and the only skin colour to be found among their colouring pencils is pale pink. Bring the world into your child’s room: skin can be almost any colour, whether pink, yellowish brown or dark brown. And every culture has wonderful stories to offer. Seek and you shall find!
- Be active
Work with your child to find ways in which you can take an active stand. Taking a stand against racism and discrimination can mean speaking out when classmates make jokes at the expense of other cultures or talk about them pejoratively. It’s often the little things that make a difference.