Prejudice and Race – What can we do?

18 June 2020, 2:52PM

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Over the past few weeks, there has been a change in the media focus, from the COVID-19 pandemic to a more deep-seated problem, regarding Prejudice and Race.  


The current trends on international/national news and social media started with the death of African American man, George Floyd and have brought about ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests across the world. But perhaps more importantly than this, they have led to conversations. I am saddened that it has taken until now to get this conversation started, but I am glad that we are here.   

Over the past two weeks I have been reading, watching and researching in an attempt to educate myself further about these matters. I will be the first to admit that I will still make mistakes, but I am trying. I am confident in saying that racial divide and white prejudice is not just a US problem, but an Australian problem. 

For this to change we need to work together, to educate and speak out. It is never too early to start these conversations and for a multitude of reasons adolescents is an optimal time. Teenagers are experimenting, soaking in information, and working out their identities. Part of this sees an increase in their awareness of the social status and group memberships and often teens have either learnt (from home or society) to put people down because of difference, or to embrace it.  

So how do you talk to your children about race?  

1. Educate yourself 

2. Think about everyday opportunities to have conversations 

  • If you are with your teenager and hear or witness prejudices e.g., among older family members, that’s the time to call out and teach your child to be brave enough not to be bystanders. 
  • When you see a news story about exclusion or a protest or when race is mentioned in a song, use that as an opening and talk about it.  
  • Ask your teen what they think about certain issues and more importantly let them and listen to them while they answer.  
  • Model and encourage them to be curious rather than judgmental about other people. This starts with kindness and involves perspective taking and empathy.   
  • Encourage your teen to become an advocate, educate themselves and speak out on issues that they feel passionately about.  
  • Be honest and tell your teen what you think and feel. For example, that you might not know the answers or understand all our history, that you too are scared to talk about race, but you are trying to learn. 
  • Opening the lines of communication and letting your teenager know that they can speak to you about these things will not just be useful now, but for a host of challenges into the future. 
  • Find ways to encourage your teen and your family to widen their social circles (e.g., through sport clubs, volunteering or attending local indigenous events).  

3. Most importantly become an advocate and a model  

  • Some of the most important communication is not in what we say, but what we do. If we are talking to adolescents about how and why they should embrace difference, and not doing that in our actions (how we treat and speak about others), they will reject those messages. 
  • All children are constantly learning through their families, schools, and society. Psychologist, Howard Stevenson, says, “You’re always communicating about race, whether you talk about it or not.” 

Here at Marist, we continue to live out our values of Hospitality, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion and Justice. It is our responsibility to foster inclusion and anti-racism practices in our school community. We hope that by working in partnership to have these conversations and embrace the teachable moments, we can begin to create a ripple effect of change.  

Nicole Young 

School Psychologist