In a Daily Telegraph article today it was stated that in a report published last year that schools listed 40,000 incidents of racism involving children as young as five indicating that racial inequality will be alive and kicking for decades to come.
It is often cited that young people are the future and in particular it is said that young people in Britain are multicultural and colour blind in regards to race. Yet a report by the Daily Telegraph today questions these beliefs.
Following a story about a nine year-old pupil who was removed from class for calling a mixed-race child “chocolate”, Julie Henry, Education Correspondent writes a sympathetic view of children being punished for what she refers to as “playground squabbles and innocent comments made by pupils to classmates.”
There is a concern that children may not be aware of what the offensive words mean and are being unduly punished potentially making the situation much worse.
In 2002 the requirement to log racist incidents in schools was strengthened and the Department for Children, Schools and Families wants to make this compulsory this year, however there seems to be concerns that this approach is unnecessarily regulating children and actually causes a divide between black and white children, making them see everything in terms of race. At least this is the view of the Manifesto Club, a group which campaigns against the hyperregulation of everyday life by the government.
Despite all the complaints and concerns however there seems to be a problem. A report last year revealed that schools were logging 40,000 racist incidents a year involving children as young as five. This huge figure indicates that racism is alive and kicking in Britain which is a factor that the Telegraph report ignores.
Yes, children will say rude and offensive words sometimes without even knowing what they mean, but racist attitudes and language must be tackled from a young age, just as it would be tackled if children were making anti-semitic remarks, sexist remarks or homophobic remarks.
Taking into consideration a report by the Sunday Mercury revealing that 5 teachers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were being forced out of their jobs every year in the Midlands because of racism (read Black pupils marked down by teachers according to report) these figures are not to be taken lightly nor should young children be excused for making racist remarks simply because of their age.
It is interesting how a BBC report on Thursday, 1 November 2007, mentions the government targeting young Muslims before they become extremists. The strategies utilised by the government includes hiring British friendly Muslim leaders and Imans to teach young Muslims the values of being British and Muslim.
Coincidentally enough the same government decided that it was alright for teachers to be members of far-right organisations (read Racist teachers allowed to teach) and did not seem to be concerned about young white children becoming extremists.
The double standards displayed by the media when it comes to dealing with racism is apparent. If anything what the figures reveal is that British society is still deeply racist which would explain why young children repeat the racism they are taught on a daily basis.
Is it surprising that young children are using racist terms in a society where according to a Sunday Herald report in January 2008, by Muriel Gray, 64 percent of Guardian readers said that the term ‘sooty’ was not offensive and was in fact an affectionate term to use for someone from an ethnic background? This was in relation to a race row which involved Prince Charles’s reference to an Asian friend as ‘sooty’.
Readers of the Guardian are supposed to be liberal, intelligent individuals and this poll revealed a disturbing outlook on modern race relations in Britain. Again, the question must be asked is it any wonder that young children are using racist remarks as well?
For these reasons racist remarks by young children should be taken very seriously by all in society and young children should be steered away from that path as early as possible.
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