Mama, what is apartheid?
Masanda Peter deals with addressing a tricky racism issue.
This question came unexpectedly while watching the ANC centenary celebrations on TV the other day. There was so much political talk and also pictures showing the events of the past. The word “apartheid” came up several times from the people on TV.
How much information is too much?
I was taken by surprise as I did not expect to be asked this question and to deal with it was a bit uncomfortable for me because I wanted to avoid information overload at the same time did not want to give too little leaving my son confused or with half the truth. We have never addressed the issue at home; there has been no need so far in our lives as a family.
Hate-speech and the “K” word
One time some man once called me the “k” word in front of him and thank goodness he was too young to understand the nastiness of the word and how his mama felt at being referred to as a “K” by this man. As a mother,l naturally I want to protect him from such shocking behaviour and the less focus on it, the better I think it is for him. I also do not want to give him too much information that I remove the innocence he has of the world – such things are not in his mind as yet and why plant them? As the dictionary puts it: “it [racism] is any system that separates people according to race, caste”. After this the question would have been “why did a certain group not like the other?” and that is where the unpacking would have started.
Keeping it simple to protect innocence
Coming to the answer I gave I just said “it is when black people were not allowed to go into certain places because of their skin colour”. Surprisingly, there were no further questions. A time will come where I will expect to share more than what I did that day. I believe that we need to give age-appropriate answers when it comes to such matters and not plant a seed of hate amongst children as a result of what we have experienced as parents. I do not want my son to go to school and be pre occupied with race issues especially at his age. I want him to grow up to be a young man that is kind to fellow human beings.
Helping children understand grown-up issues
It is up to us as parents to set an example: Offer a balanced explanation whilst letting them enjoy their innocence. Of course it would be unrealistic of me to think that he will never experience racism but I do not want him to navigate life looking for it. The strong man I am raising should be able to deal with the strong tides that come his way no matter what shape and size they come in. That is my dream and hope as a mother.
Read more by Masanda Peter
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Have you ever had to explain the concept of racism to young kids? How did you go about it?