It’s a lovely thought to think that we might be able to raise colorblind children and never have a need to discuss race relations. Unfortunately, children do not grow up colorblind.
Teaching children the value of diversity and cultural awareness is crucial. We can’t afford to put aside discussions about race with our children. I’m not talking about “We are all equal in Gods eyes” or “Under the skin, we’re all the same”— I’m talking about deep and honest conversations about racial and cultural differences.
As with anything and everything, if we don’t have these discussions with our children, they will be left to the thoughts, opinions, prejudices and ignorance of others. It’s our responsibility to ensure our children get to know people as people and not a suggested stereotype. As it is, children will naturally use whatever they are given to create divisions.
Raising culturally aware children
Talk to children often and early. Give them the very best foundation possible so that they know right from wrong and the true meaning of equality and justice. We should want our children to be unintimidated by the differences, they should be able to have the proper social skills to live and flourish in a diverse world. Let them ask questions and start conversations that will expand their understanding on race, our differences and the many things we have in common.
Division is dangerous. We need to watch out for those who divide and hate and put obstacles in our way that are contrary to peace, acceptance and tolerance.
A side note that needs mentioning… one bad apple should NOT spoil the barrel. Let’s not throw out the barrel of apples because of one rotten apple, you will miss the best apples, the beautiful and bright apples. Dig deeper to find the good.
Lastly, our children are watching, listening and absorbing our attitudes, thoughts and remarks about race relations.
More is caught than taught.
Have we come a long way since 1960… yes, but we still have a very long way to go.
We can do better. We can do the one thing that we know will have a lasting impact for change in this world, invest in the humans that are under our covering and raise socially and culturally aware children.
Donna Y. Ford, PhD recommends the following for raising culturally responsive and responsible children…
- Give children opportunities to learn about their own cultural heritage. Such opportunities promote cultural pride and self-understanding and help children see themselves as cultural beings. Research your family tree, focusing particularly on your ancestors’ involvement in the struggle for human and civil rights and immigration.
- Invite friends from different cultural backgrounds to your home and to events in your community.
- Along with other families in the community, let your children see you welcome all new neighbors into the community.
- Start a neighborhood welcoming committee that sponsors ongoing social and cultural events.
- Encourage your children to develop cross-cultural friendships and to choose friends based on their integrity rather than on cultural background, socioeconomic status, language background, and the like.
- Plan family outings in diverse neighborhoods in and outside your community. Visit museums and attend celebrations and events that are culture-oriented.
- Be mindful of making stereotypical remarks about culturally diverse groups. Both negative stereotypes (e.g., all African American teenagers like rap music) and positive stereotypes (e.g., all Asian students are smart and diligent) can be harmful.
- Speak out against jokes and slurs that target groups. Your silence only sends your children the message that you agree with those jokes and slurs.
- Acknowledge social injustices. Do not minimize them. Talk with your children about racism, prejudice, discrimination, and poverty. Give your children credit for being able to handle such discussions. (Otherwise, when and where will young people develop their attitudes about diversity and social injustice?)
- Prevent your children from watching television shows and listening to songs that promote forms of social injustice (stereotypes, discrimination, etc.). If they do view such shows or listen to such music, teach them to evaluate their content critically.
- Visit historical cultural landmarks in your community.
- Talk about your cultural heroes from the past and present.
- Talk with your children about holidays and events celebrated by other cultural groups (Juneteenth, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Yom Kippur, etc.).
- Read and have your children read multicultural books and books that promote cross-cultural understanding. Ensure that the books are of high quality, authentic, and written by culturally diverse authors.
- Talk with your children about peace negotiations regarding racial, ethnic, and religious conflict in the United States and around the world.
- Invite students from exchange programs to live with your family.
- Encourage your children to focus on topics and issues concerning diversity and culturally diverse groups in their school assignments (e.g., famous Latino scientists). Request that their teachers and other school personnel provide them with a multicultural curriculum and other multicultural experiences.
Sources: Digest of gifted research at Duke