Don't Ask, Don't Tell?


I was at the supermarket the other day and watched as a youngster, aged about five, walked down the aisle behind his mum.

He was holding the trolley, walking backwards and staring at a Somali woman who was almost fully covered, apart from her eyes.

As I watched, the wee boy tugged his mum's coat, saying in a five year old non-whisper, ‘Mum, look at that lady! Why is she wearing that funny dress? Where's her head gone?' The mum turned and realised that the woman would have heard. She immediately hushed the boy and they moved quickly away.

It got me wondering about the messages we are sending when we tell children not to stare, not to ask questions, not to be curious about difference. The manners of five-year olds aside, it is vital that we have these discussions and learn about each other.

Most discriminatory behaviour is based on limited contact and fear. By learning about difference, we build connection and understanding, and ultimately respect and appreciation.

Kids learn from their parents. They pick up the attitudes you model, your willingness to be open to new understandings and ideas. 

  • So, what new conversations might you have at home?
  • What conversations might you start with people who are different from you?
  • What opportunities are you missing to learn and to teach? 

Jenny Magee
Building diverse, inclusive workplaces

Ph: +64-27-4863-623




Trainer, coach and consultant, Jenny Magee (BEd, DipTchg, DipSLT) works with organizations to raise awareness of diversity in all its richness and has over 25 years experience as a champion of diverse workplaces and positive, productive partnerships.

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