Recently, I was at the grocery store and noticed an Asian family speaking to one another in a different language. Shortly after noticing this family, I saw a young white mother pass this family as her small child pointed, made a face, and exclaimed, “Why are they talking so funny?” The mother was profusely embarrassed and apologized to the family as she scowled at her son, swatted his hand, and told him how rude he was being.
While I’m sure the mother was embarrassed and reacted based on feeling badly for her son having caused any awkward feelings amongst the Asian family, she quickly negated any feelings her son had and put a hasty end to investigating these feelings further. In doing so, she reprimanded him from noticing and responding to diversity, rather than giving him a different way to communicate his observations and guiding this thought process.
An anti-bias educator may have responded differently to this child by asking questions like, “What makes you think they are talking funny?” “Have you ever heard people speaking different languages than the language you speak?” “Would you like to learn a different language?” Questions like these have the potential to turn this child’s response into a positive, productive conversation regarding diversity and equity. “What children ask, say, or do about any aspect of their own or others’ identities and differences are the wonderful “teachable moments” of anti-bias education” (Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 32).
Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children