Supporting Multiracial Children and Families
Assume today is your first day in school. You are prompted to complete a questionnaire that includes your name, age, birthday, and race. There are boxes for White/Caucasian, African-American, Latinx, Biracial/Multiracial, and Other under race. How do you know which option to check if you are a kid of an African-American and Asian mother and a Portuguese father? And how does it feel to be labeled as “other” because of your race, which may or may not fit into one of these artificial categories? In a world where race and ethnicity are becoming increasingly difficult to categorize, educators must encourage multiracial students. Here are a few strategies educators can use to actively support multiracial students and their families.
- Do not include any lesson plans or activities that are centered on physical traits.
When playing games or separating into groups, do not instruct students to segregate or identify themselves based on physical attributes, no matter how insignificant they may appear. For example, don’t say, “Simon Says all the learners with curly hair rub their bellies!” when playing Simon Says. This may appear to be innocent, but curly hair is a racial identification for many people, and it can feel like something that makes learners feel like they stand out adversely. This is not to say that learners should be prevented from identifying variations in race and ethnicity, or that they should avoid having talks about these themes, but rather that they should never be made to feel “different” because of their physical traits.
- Recognize and combat your own bias.
Whether we are conscious of them or not, we all have preconceptions and biases. Personal experiences, stereotypes, what we see in the media, and other factors all contribute to the formation of prejudices. Educators owe it to their students to combat their preconceptions, and the first step is to be aware of them, even if they are unconscious.
Some subconscious prejudices may appear to be harmless, yet they might have negative consequences. For example, a long-held misconception holds that all Asians are gifted in mathematics. Consider a high school math instructor that has an Asian student in their class. If this student has difficulty with math, a biased teacher who subconsciously holds the stereotype that all Asians are brilliant at math may not give this learner the attention they deserve and need, and this learner’s learning may suffer as a result.
- Don’t label students.
Don’t make assumptions about a learner’s race or ethnicity. For example, if a student seems white yet checks multiracial/biracial on a questionnaire, do not challenge them publicly or privately about it. If a student of color has a white parent, don’t automatically presume the learner is adopted.
- Make an effort to have equal representation in your school.
Be mindful of the messages you deliver to your students in the classroom. When posters, books, or films featuring solely white children are displayed, it might repel learners of color and limit their ability to engage and learn. Make certain that your classroom reflects the cultures and ethnicities of all of your students.
Educators must encourage children as they strive to discover their racial identities by fostering a positive self-image and creating a safe and inclusive atmosphere. Because they are so underrepresented, multiracial learners are especially overlooked. Educators can make gains toward helping multicultural learners in the classroom by following the criteria outlined above.