A Childs Social Distance Scale

I live in a community that has a growing population of Indian and Middle-eastern students enrolled in the public school system. Something happened recently with my children that correlated with topics that we had discussed in class. I overheard my eight-year-old son and my six-year-old daughter talking. My son was teasing my daughter, asking her if she “had a boyfriend”. Her response was, “no, all the boys in my class have brown faces.” My son laughed and then corrected her by saying “that was racist”. Her brother’s reaction made her really upset and caused her to start crying. It made me wonder if her comment was a purely innocent observation or was it her degree of social distance. She had never said anything before about any of her girlfriends that had a different color skin than her. In fact that when I told her that one her best friends was black she didn’t believe me. So it seemed strange to me that she would make a distinct separation with only the boys in her class. I have observed that some of the boys are less assimilated than most of the girls in the class. This made me wonder if the separation between her and the boys was due to the cultural differences and not the color of their skin. The easiest way that she could explain this was by categorizing them by the most obvious physical attribute. In fact, most adults do this as well. The difficultly in being a parent is trying to deal with situations like this at the appropriate age level. I’ve always taught my children to not judge people by what is on the outside, but to what is on the inside. This concept is wonderful but in reality children get influences by so many outside factors. The true challenge is to teach your children how to filter through the outside sources and make their own decisions on how to treat others.

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