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As painful as it is to observe such incidents, parents can use them as "teachable moments." You can make it clear to your child that you find such language unacceptable by saying, as soon as the incident occurs, "That was a hurtful and ignorant thing that person said. We don't talk or think that way in our family."
Depending on her daily exposure to such events or to different types of people, a 6-, 7-, or 8-year-old may or may not grasp the significance of the incident. Read your child's cues. If she reacts with a wide-eyed, shocked look, you can ask, "How did it make you feel to hear that?" Or simply reflect how you think she feels by saying, for example, "I can tell that made you feel uncomfortable." This gives her words to identify her own feelings and opens the way for her to take the discussion further with you. If she shows no reaction, remember that by expressing your own viewpoint and not simply letting the incident pass, you're teaching her an important lesson that you can reinforce as she gets older.
If your child doesn't seem ready to discuss the situation right away, you may want to bring up the subject again later on. Some grade-schoolers are more open to discussion after they've had several hours, or even days, to think about an important incident. If your child has a difficult time discussing emotional matters, she might benefit from reading stories or watching videos with you that address multiculturalism.
If the person who made the remark is a stranger, I would not recommend confronting her about it. But do talk to your child about the incident. You can state simply, "We believe all people should be respected, and we don't make comments like that." If you can continue the conversation with your child right at that moment, do so; if not, you've at least laid the groundwork for revisiting the topic later.
If, on the other hand, your child overhears a friend or relative making racist comments, you have several possible ways to handle the situation. Saying something to the speaker right away is the clearest way to teach your child what you think of such statements. (Of course, you are the best judge of your friends and relatives, and of whether starting such a discussion could lead to a more intense conversation than you want your child to hear.) It's important for your child to see you stand up for what's right. A brief and non-confrontational response can send the right cue. For example, if the speaker has denigrated a person you know who is of a different race or ethnicity, you might respond simply, "Jessica is a good friend of ours, and we really enjoy her company." If she's made a racist comment about a group of people, you can say, "We're raising our children to value and respect all people. I would appreciate it if you would be careful about making unkind remarks in front of her."
Later on you might want to hold a private discussion with the speaker. You could explain that you feel uncomfortable having your child overhear such remarks and politely ask the speaker to try to respect your viewpoint while in your child's presence. You can also bring up the topic in private with your child, telling her that you had a talk about it with the speaker and finding out whether she has any questions or is uncomfortable after having heard a beloved friend or relative say something hurtful.
It's difficult to change the way other adults view the world, of course; your primary responsibility is to help your child process the experience and learn the right lessons from it. The way you treat people of other races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, or economic classes has by far the strongest and most meaningful effect on your children. By being respectful toward others in your everyday interactions, you're teaching your child volumes about how to treat others, and how to respond to stereotyping and racism.