The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

1Having grown up and lived in South Africa for most part of my life and now Living in China for the last two years, I have certainly seen and witnessed oppression amongst those who are of a different skin colour or class. In China, there are many people who are becoming wealthier overnight, however what most people do not realise is that those Chinese people who live in rural areas are severely oppressed and looked down upon, especially when they migrate to the city to look for work and leave the family behind. The living conditions they live in are severely poor and neglected and the wages they earn are an embarrassment that companies should be ashamed and ask themselves if they could live like this too. To make it worse I came across a situation at school where a student in my class from the previous year was extremely rude to his bus buddy, which is the lady who takes care of the children to and from school on the bus. She is also a cleaner at our school and wants to earn extra money to pay for her daughter to go to university, so she asked if she could be a bus buddy too. Anyway this child that I had previously, who was taught by his father, who is German to treat Chinese people like pigs had turned around to her one day and said I am not listening to you on the bus, you are poor and dirty because you clean my toilet at school. Can you believe it?

As a result this kind cleaner and bus buddy, was hurt, upset and embarrassed that a child could say that and she certainly was not treated in an equitable manner by a child, which has learnt to treat Chinese people like this.

I on the other hand was certainly furious, disappointed and disgusted that this little boy said this and at the same time shameful that this white little boy who is a guest in her country, was so demeaning to a Chinese lady who is working hard to pay for her child through university.

I believe that in order for this incident to become an equitable one, if I was still this little boys teacher, I would call the parents in, explain that the behaviour in their child was unacceptable and question why he thinks that this is okay. I would also sit down with the child and explain that this attitude towards those who may be less fortunate than him is not okay and unacceptable too. I would ask the parents and the little boy to apologise to the cleaner/bus buddy lady.

If you were the teacher of this little boy, how would you handle this situation?






  • What and/or who would have to change in order to turn this incident into an opportunity for greater equity?

3 thoughts on “The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice, and Oppression

  1. This story reminds me of the story here not long ago where an older bus monitor was bullied by the boys on the bus and one of the kids filmed it and posted it to the internet. It was heartbreaking to watch children curse at her, call her fat, disgusting and overweight. Just with a few words they stripped away her humanity and posted it for all to see. Luckily after posting it, the public and community looked for justice for this woman, punishment for these children and created an environment or support for the women. I do think that it all starts with our children and the way we choose to act as individuals. We have to teach and show respect, that we don’t have to like everyone or everything about them to respect them and more.


  2. Justine,
    I cannot believe the situation between the German child and the Chinese child. It infuriates me to learn that these children are learning prejudice at such a young age. Thank you for sharing. If I were in that situation, I would take both boys aside and ask them to tell me something they like about the other child. We would then hold a conversation about character words and how we could use them to describe each other. I would point out the significance of the nice words they used toward each other without using hurtful ones that can really upset our feelings.



  3. Justine,
    My goodness, I am still in shock! It is difficult situation. I would first assess my relationship with that family to see what approach I would take in addressing the situation. Even though it is morally wrong, some people are very head strong and unwilling to open up at all. I agree that I would approach the family and not talk about the situation with the child beforehand because this is what he has been taught :(. I think I would share what happened and how it made me feel as an onlooker, but I wouldn’t share the fact that I thought he should apologize. It would be my hope that with self-reflection they would come to that on their own.


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