Racism goes beyond skin colour

26th July 1996 at 01:00
English children at Scottish schools can experience the same problems of racism and prejudice as black and ethnic minority pupils, ChildLine Scotland claimed this week at the launch of a major report on children and racism.

Anne Houston, ChildLine Scotland's director, said: "We have a number of English callers who describe similar experiences because of their country of origin and their different accents. We cannot say we do not have a problem of racism in Scotland."

Ms Houston said the Glasgow-based organisation received a small but significant number of calls complaining of racism or prejudice. "Many problems come in the guise of bullying, from name calling to being punched and kicked, " she stated. Problems were particularly acute when there were only one or two black children in a school.

The ChildLine UK study of 1,616 children found that many endure "blatant, unrelenting, openly racist harassment and bullying on a daily basis". Racist bullying was the worst problem and many children said it was a feature of their entire school life.

Mary MacLeod, United Kingdom research director and author of the study, commented: "Children suffering racism can find it just as hard to talk about it as those suffering abuse or sexual assault, because they feel shame and despair which makes it extremely difficult to put pain and distress into words. "

She added: "It is vital that every aspect of our society unites to oppose racism, providing these children with positive imagery of themselves and their communities in order to strengthen their confidence in their identity."

Herman Ouseley, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said: "As a nation, we must take action to ensure young people have an equal chance to learn, work and live free from discrimination and prejudice and from the fear of racial harassment and violence," he said.

ChildLine recommends that children at risk should be given a designated teacher or senior student to take problems to. Children should be encouraged to report racial harassment and all complaints should be taken seriously. Schools may want to involve the police.

ChildLine Scotland reported conversations with a number of callers who said: * "I'm different from everybody else, a different colour. I'm black. Everybody else at the school calls me names - Dairy Milk. I've no friends. Sometimes I cry in bed."

* "I'm being kicked under the table, punched, chased by a group of girls. I told the teacher. It stopped for a while and then started again."

* "One boy kicks and slaps me. Mum has been to the teacher three or four times."

* " I'm sad because the bullying is racism. The boy doing it is white and I'm black and it makes me feel so ashamed. I'm proud to be a black person."

* "Deep inside I feel angry and hurt. I feel proud of my race and I do not want anyone to make me feel less proud."

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