Dear ARP: How can I stop students from teasing classmates with white or biracial parents?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

I am a white woman and  I work at an afterschool program with mostly black and biracial kids. I
notice that often times the children will tease each other for having white or ‘mixed parents.’ It bothers me and I do the best I can to address it to the children. But I was hoping you had some ideas on the right things to say so that they understand? I have a hard time with this; and I could use a little advice. Will you help me out?

Megan P.

From the Editor:

I think too often children absorb that it is wrong to make fun of brown people because of their race, but not the more important lesson that it is wrong to make fun of ANYONE for their race or perceived difference. This may be a teaching moment that allows you to send the (age-appropriate) message that you aren’t about justice if you aren’t about justice for all.

You say that most of the students in your afterschool program are children of color. I think that may give them a frame of reference for how hurtful it can be to be teased because of race. Why not lead a discussion with the class about racial teasing? Try to extract personal experiences.  The goal is dialogue. Part of the conversation should highlight how this sort of teasing is hurtful to EVERYONE. (Now, I am assuming that the afterschool program will feel like a safe space for kids to discuss these things, and that this is appropriate given the program. I could be wrong.)

I also think that it is important that you not let racial teasing go unaddressed when it occurs. It is important to stop the conversation, correct the child who is teasing and perhaps help him or her dissect what is really being said.

Readers?

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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