The myth of the racist children

ANTI-BULLYING RULE THAT BRANDS CHILDREN RACIST” screamed the Express, who always assumes its readers can’t cope with headlines in mixed case (and, indeed, that SEO is about repeating the same keywords over and over in a URL…)

‘Racists’ aged THREE: Toddlers among thousands of children accused of bigotry after name-calling” said the Daily Mail.

The Evening Standard followed with “Children as young as three should be reported for ‘racism’, Government-funded group claims“, and the Telegraph added to the pile with “Children as young as four reprimanded for racist behaviour“.

The general gist was the same in each case, despite the differing levels of hysterics in the headlines. By recording incidents of racist behaviour, children would be branded for life if they uttered anything which the teachers might consider to be racist or homophobic.

But wouldn’t you know it? There’s not all that much in truth in the way the papers have covered the story.

From Show Racism the Red Card, the organisation campaigning against racism in football and society:

It is vital to understand that the recording and reporting of racist incidents by schools is NOTHING to do with labelling or punishing children. It is ludicrous to suggest that future employers will be turning away candidates because they uttered a racist word at nursery. Baseless stories such as these are simply scaremongering and continue to erode belief in the value of recording racist incidents.

Recording racist incidents means that schools are able to identify patterns; do incidents rise in response to particular local or national events? Are the incidents all of a particular nature or between specific groups of young people?

It helps schools to identify whether any strategies that they have put in place are having an effect and to identify whether there are any specific training needs for staff or pupils.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it creates a school environment where young people know that they will be taken seriously, where all young people feel valued and where racism and discrimination are not accepted. It is beneficial for the Local Authority to collect this information, so that they can gain a better understanding of issues within schools and offer relevant help and support.

Of course, if children grow up with respect for themselves and each other, they’ll end up as adults who are far less likely to fall for the tabloid papers’ catalogue of hatred and self-pity that they rely upon for newsstand sales and website page views. So maybe there’s some self-interest in their misrepresentation of this story?