I’ll never forget the day my middle son came home from preschool and told me that he’d learned about different people and cultures in the world. Now you may have noticed that people of Indian descent (like myself) in SA have many different complexions. And he says to me, “You know you get all colours of people mama. Like me and you are peach and Dad and uncle Moosa (our gardener) is brown” Hilarious as that was for us we realised that he was already aware of the differences in people before his teacher brought it to his attention. What he didn’t do though was attach any kind of prejudice to that awareness. It was purely an innocent observation
How does the prejudice come about? Most of the time, racism is taught, handed down or emulated. As with almost everything else, kids say, think and do what they see their parents or teachers do and as they grow older, they may be more influenced by their friends. As a person who grew up during the last years of apartheid, I can relate to feelings of inferiority, frustration and even anger at being excluded because of the colour of my skin (even though I’m peach, haha). Having lived in a zoned area specifically for Indians, no option of school except the one they chose for you, no options for beautiful holiday destinations… these things frustrated our parents at the time and ourselves. So we have an understanding of how it feels to be discriminated against.
Our kids, however, have no idea about segregation and have friends of all backgrounds and cultures. When our objective is to instill our kids with the concepts of understanding, kindness, respect and love, then there is actually no place for racism. It’s not even about being tolerant because tolerance implies having no respect for people different from yourself – I wouldn’t be happy if someone merely tolerated me rather than accepted me for who I am. After all, we were all created from a single pair, weren’t we?
I asked my son (9) what he thinks racism is and his answer was simply “when you think you’re better than someone else and you treat them badly”. So I asked if he would ever treat anyone that way, his answer was priceless. “But that would hurt them and why would I want to do that?”
We are all African, born and raised in beautiful Africa.
This article was originally written for Jozikids by Fatima Kazee in 2017.
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