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Can a Toddler Be Racist?

Race Relations Act reveals toddler racists.

In the United Kingdom, over 250,000 school children – some as young as three – have been labeled as racist and reported to authorities by teachers following the guidelines of the Race Relations Act 2000.

The purpose of the Act is to “eliminate unlawful racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups.”   But while that sounds like a fine idea and is surely well-intended,  the devil is in the details.

Under the Act, teachers are allowed to report a child who uses “racist language” even if nobody was offended and the child is unaware of the meaning of the words. As a result, more than a quarter million children have been reported for saying things that their teachers find to be racist.

Merriam Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”  Is a child as young as young as three capable of forming such an opinion?

Of course not.  But that doesn’t stop some teachers from turning them in anyway.

While this reporting of bigoted toddlers is supposed to promote race equality, Munira Mirza, a senior advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson, believes that what it’s really doing is creating a whole new set of problems.

Teachers are now required to report incidents of racist abuse among children as young as three to local authorities, resulting in a massive increase of cases and reinforcing the perception that we need an army of experts to manage race relations from cradle to grave.  Does this heightened awareness of racism help to stamp it out? Quite the opposite. It creates a climate of suspicion and anxiety.

I am not suggesting that children who use racist language go uncorrected.  But, as I understand it, the Act allows teachers to report such obviously innocent incidents.  It does not require them to do so.  How could they possible justify reporting on a child who says something they don’t even understand and likely heard from an adult?

Image: James Jordan/Flickr

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