Anti-Racism Week: 5 ways to create cross-racial friendships in schools

It’s easy to get discouraged about the levels of racism and prejudice in our society. Prejudice seems to be so deeply rooted in our culture that we wonder if anything can be done to change it.

Schools are an important place to fight against prejudice because children’s friendships are most malleable when they are younger, before prejudice becomes too entrenched.

Encouraging interracial and intercultural friendships in schools is a way to help our children to challenge prejudice and to lead the way toward a safer, more connected society for all.

Integrate environments where children learn

When children attend integrated schools, the negative attitude of parents towards members of other groups is less likely to be shared by their kids. The kids are more likely to have interracial friendships, than when they attend more homogeneous schools.

Seeing differences and prejudice are not the same

We all notice differences in outward appearance, a skill that served us well in prehistoric times when it was important to stay alert to dangers from other tribes.

But, while noticing physical differences and categorising is natural and part of our human heritage, assigning a negative connotation to difference – which is prejudice – is a separate process, one that is socially constructed. That means it can be challenged.

Teach children about the negative impacts of stereotyping through stories and other learning tools.

Show children intergroup friendships between role models

Nelson Mandela and Mac Maharaj

Show children images of intergroup friendships between heroes and role models of different races or cultural backgrounds. With our multiracial and multicultural political history these are easy to find.

Exposing children to books featuring cross-racial friendships in a positive light helps increase cross-group play among children.

Engage diverse groups of children in cooperative tasks in the classroom

 

When students work in ethnically mixed cooperative-learning groups, they gain in cross-ethnic friendships. The effects of cooperative learning on intergroup relations are strong and lasting. Students who work together cooperatively, rather than competitively, are most likely to form intergroup friendships.

Build understanding of our common humanity

Friendships can be created if we encourage more honest, personal exchanges with deeper levels of self-disclosure. The more we spend time looking beyond superficial differences, the more we will look deeper and find commonalities that reinforce a sense of our common humanity.

 

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