Can Babies Be Racist? Planting the Seeds For Inclusion
Updated: Aug 13, 2022
Here are 2 definitions of inclusion according to Oxford Languages:
One the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. "federal legislation now mandates the inclusion of students who are English language learners"
the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.
"We value and promote diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our business."
The opposites of inclusion are omission and exclusion.
Have you ever felt excluded? If so you might have some idea of how it might feel to be a marginalized member of society.
Senator Ted Cruz (Republican, Texas) asked supreme court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson if she believed that babies are racist since the book in the photo was taught to children ages 4-8 at a school where Jackson sat on the board.
She responded to his provocative question calmly and with grace. She said that she didn't think any child should be made to feel racist or less than.
Senator Cruz's point was that 4 years is too young to be talking about racism with children.
I agree with Jackson's response, yet the question remains, when should we start teaching antibias attitudes?
Unlike Cruz, who believes that 4 is too young to start addressing bias, I think 4 is too late. If we want to make a difference, we should be intentionally teaching attitudes that fight bias starting at birth. Here's why:
In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second. After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focussing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-
After 43+ years as an early childhood (0-8) and parent educator, I can tell you for sure that there are clearcut methods of developing helpful attitudes when it comes to racism and other bias' that children will surely encounter in the world.
Racism, exclusion, bullying, and entitlement are all attitudes that form early on in life. They, of course, can be changed or worked on later on but with much more effort than what it takes for a 3-year-old.
Are you an early childhood administrator, teacher, parent, grandparent, or caregiver of infants toddlers and/or preschoolers. If so don’t feel left out in all the talk about what to do about racism and other bias'. You're actually among the group that matters the most!
The hand that rocks the cradle will rock the world! nj bradley
If you want more information on how, keep reading!
Here are the top 5 ways To Fight Bias in Early Childhood
Admit to your mistakes as a parent and as a person. Children learn by example. No one's perfect and an attitude of superiority has no place in an antibias education. Your kids are constantly looking to you to know how to behave. When you show them both humility and tolerence and you give them real tools they'll be able to use in the world.
Point out all different kinds of people when you see them being kind and let children know that good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, cultures, ages, and abilities.
When someone does something wrong, be careful not to perceive it as a flaw that affects an entire group of people. I call that "lumping" and it's almost always an unhelpful way of looking at things.
Coach children early on about their own and others' feelings and emotions. Give them names for these things. Here's a link to an article I wrote about a method I call Laptime.
Laptime is time spent reading or talking about emotions in close physical contact with your child. It's time spent together, looking at books or magazines, reading and speculating how characters, ourselves, or others in the world might feel.
It's also chatting about facial, body, and language expressions that help us know what others are experiencing outside of ourselves. It's based on this premise that all feelings are OK, all actions (and words) are not.
Laptime is a time for questioning and wondering about human interaction in the presence of a non-judgemental and trusted person. It's an awesome way to teach emotions to kids ages 0-8+. And it's information they'll need when it comes to talking about bullies. They'll eventually need to be able to "read" people well in the world they'll be growing up in.
Teach problem-solving as an alternative to lumping or blaming.
When kids have problems, try not to take sides or solve them for them.
What should you do instead? Try listening and giving them the least amount of help they need to figure it out by themselves. As a parent, you're there to be their guide and mentor rather than judge or jury. That way they'll get some practice at solving problems on their own before they're faced with tough decisions when you're not around to help.
Talk about and celebrate our differences openly. Compare skin color, features, and abilities without judgment or shame. I use the video below as a good example of how someone who looks very different from you can be the same in many ways.
Make sure every child feels heard and knows that their choices count. Help them do things that make a difference in the world even if it's just picking up trash or giving a few dollars to help someone other than themselves. Help them to notice when something is unfair and find a safe and productive way to deal with it.
Here's a phrase to help combat exclusion that really works in many different situations. It's short, sweet, and says a lot.
"Find a way to include them."
I use this phrase and then I watch as they figure out a way to do it. This feels much better to me than dictating inclusive behavior and enforcing it.
If you still aren't convinced of the power of inclusion to fight bias in early childhood, take a look at the heartwarming video below. It really hits home when you see it with your own eyes.
Here's an idea! Let's work together to infuse the early childhood community with non-violent communication and the building blocks for peace and inclusion. That's the real way to change things in society. When you join our community you'll get my 22-page slideshow on How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling or Time-Outs (49. value) for free immediately as my gift to you. Do it now cuz it won't be free forever!
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human dev from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI and is the founder of early childhood rocks, a non-profit org dedicated to creating change through early childhood education.