Are You Inadvertently Teaching Your Kids to Be Racist?
I had the best of intentions with my kids. I’m not a racist, and I’ve always tried to be careful about what I say and what I think. As much as I hate to admit it, racism is part of our culture. And, as weird as it may sound, some recent research with young children has shown that, unless we talk about our differences, they may inadvertently pick up incorrect information.
If you read Corinne Fiagome’s blog and her column in the April issue, she hit me with some hard facts. First, that I did exactly the wrong thing with my kids when it comes to race. My husband and I really didn’t talk about racial differences with our children. We were probably of the well-meaning “We want to live in a color-blind world and we see all people the same” camp. Of course, that defies logic. Unless we truly are blind, differences in skin color, hair, eyes, physical shape – it’s all right there in front of us. So, I realize now, that to pretend that differences don’t exist is a little strange. If we’re not talking about it, then our children will draw their own conclusions.
According to the recent book “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, most of the tolerance and diversity promoting efforts that we well-meaning adults use is not very effective. I guess kids are smart enough to know that “we’re all equal” and “we’re all the same” is pretty obviously not accurate. The point that Corinne and the experts at the YWCA that she interviewed made is that it’s OK to acknowledge differences, while pointing out that the way a person looks is not a reason to treat him or her any differently than we treat people who look like us.
To young children, “sorting” people by skin color, eye color, hair color, etc. is as natural as sorting shapes of blocks. However, the value judgment that children begin to place on that “sorting” comes from adults – parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, religious leaders and others.
Corinne’s article helped me see some things that I can improve when it comes to talking about race. One thing might be to actually talk about it. One way we can all make our intentions known is to participate in the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism Day on Friday, April 30. It’s a national day where individuals, groups, businesses and agencies make a public statement that they will take a stand against racism in all its forms. At TulsaKids Magazine, we’re inviting people to come by the office at 1820 S. Boulder (west of Boulder) between 3 and 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, April 30) to sign the YWCA’s Pledge Against Racism. Your kids can sign, too, so bring them after school to have a cookie and sign the pledge. We’ll publish it in our June issue and post pictures on our website.
If you can’t come by, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add your name.