Lately I’ve seen a lot of articles and discussions on ways to talk to your children about race. Some of these pieces have been useful and education. But, I’ve also noticed a trend of parent’s teaching their children to be “color blind”. This means that instead of discussing different races, nationalities, ethnicities or religions with their children, they opt to teach them not to see different colors, not to notice or discuss difference. The root of this technique comes from a good place. They want their children to see everyone as equal without taking into consideration any of their difference. It’s done with good intentions, but it’s not effective.
It would be wonderful to live in a world where “color blindness” was unanimous. Where no one cared about differences in color, where nationality or ethnicity didn’t matter; somewhere that every single person got the same opportunities and treatment regardless of where they come from or the color of their skin. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. We’ve all seen the news, read the articles, and watched the press conferences. You would have to be extremely naive to believe that racism isn’t still an active problem.
While it seems easy to simply tell your children, “Black doesn’t matter. You don’t see them as black or brown or otherwise, you see them as a person that gets every opportunity everyone else does.” You’re only distracting them from the problem at hand. People of color don’t always get the same opportunities. They don’t always receive equal treatment. By teaching your children to ignore the color, you’re teaching them to ignore the problem as well.
In my household we take issues such as this very seriously, especially with our children. While they may be young, they’re never too young to be taught basic respect and how to stand up for what they believe in. We teach them to see and acknowledge different races and religions and to show them respect accordingly. When we see a news segment regarding the problem we take that opportunity to teach them what they problem is. We explain to them that sometimes people in the world aren’t nice. They have problems inside their own hearts that cause them to be hateful and mean to people simply because they’re different than the majority. We also take that opportunity to teach them things they can do to help and encourage them to do so. I want my children to grow up to understand that this world as a whole still has a problem and they should not stand by idly, ignoring the color and the issue.
I understand that this can be a difficult subject to tackle. It’s hard to discuss and explain to a little mind and there’s always something nagging you in the back of your mind. Your child is young and innocent and sometimes it’s difficult to expose them to the cruelty that can be found in the world. But that cruelty will still be there when they get older. The problem will not go away on its own. By shielding them from it now they won’t know or understand how to tackle it in adulthood.
So, I implore you, the next time you’re faced with a race discussion with your child resist the urge to tell them “We’re all equal.” Instead, try these tactics:
• Allow your children to ask questions
This has proven most effective for my children and it’s happened more than once. My daughter is extra curious and has a tendency to stare when she sees someone she deems different. It’s not out of rudeness, merely normal, 3 year old curiosity. The first time it happened I was tempted to fuss at her and tell her to quit staring, it was rude. But instead, I walked up to the lady in the grocery store and politely told her that my daughter was very curious about her and I wondered if she had a moment to take a few questions. She was actually thrilled and allowed my daughter to ask her a barrage of questions varying from where she came from to why she wears a scarf on her head. Temperance walked away educated and with a new friend. We’ve done so several times since and I’ve never been met with anything but hospitality. Don’t ignore it and don’t fuss at them. Let them ask!
• When you see a news segment use it
Naturally you’ll want to censor things that are too morbid or cruel for little minds. Obviously you don’t want to tell your children that there was a mass shooting. But you can take that opportunity to explain to them that someone had a lot of hate in their heart towards people who are different. We don’t know or understand why, but it’s a sad thing. Take them time to explain to them that sometimes people to bad things to other people simply based of the color of their skin. While it sounds simple, explain to them that it’s wrong and tell them why.
• Tell them what to do when faced with a situation like this
While I don’t ever want to put my child in a dangerous situation, I also want her to understand and be confident on what to do if she’s ever faced with a situation like this. If she’s on the playground or at school and notices someone being picked on for any reason, race included, I want her to be the child to stand up to it. I’ve taught her to tell the offender, “That’s not nice. You shouldn’t treat people like that.” And to try to befriend the victim, they may not have anyone else. We’ve taught her to find the nearest adult and tell them what’s happening. I never want her to be that kid that stands by idly while someone is being bullied.
I know that this world has a long way to go before the race issues are resolved. Honestly, there’s no way to know if they ever will be eradicated completely. Like I tell my kids, some people just have hate in their hearts. But, I also know that our children are our future. If we teach them not to see the problem then the problem can never be dealt with. Instead, I want her to be a warrior for those that need one. I want her to see the problem and I want her to genuinely want to fix it. Without teaching our future how to handle the hate we have no hope of ever getting away from it.