Over the last few weeks events around the world have made most of us take a closer look at who we are and how we conduct ourselves around people who are of a different race, religion, ethnicity, etc. The #blacklivesmatter and #nojusticenopeace movements across America and now the world have invoked many conversations within households and over a wide range of communities. What role have you played in promoting racial bias? How silent have you been as parents with regards to racial inequality in your homes? If you are a black American then you will have started to have these conversations with your children (especially young boys) from a very young age, and as I am not black, or living in American, I can not even fathom what that conversation could look and feel like.
You might feel that you are not racist and so you do not need to have these conversations with your children, however if as parents we do not celebrate differences and similarities between cultures, religions and races then we are not promoting inclusivity. Our silence does not guarantee the fact that we have not raised racist children. Having lived in an international community all my life I have experienced being different, and have seen my children experience being different thus I have made a point to have conversations around their experiences and mine. The main focus of our discussions always end up around the following concepts: respect, empathy and inclusivity.
Monkey see, monkey do.
How we talk about those different to us around our children will be how they view the world. If we have conversations that are generalized and promote racial, religious and ethnic bias then our children will pick up on the nuances, language and attitudes we express and mimic them in their world. When children come home from school and talk about someone who looks different to them, it is important to make sure that the language used is respectful. When we have conversations about skin colour we look at what is the same and what is different and how everyone is beautiful the way they have been born. We compare ourselves to what nature has shown us in plants and animals, and how none is better than the other but unique in its own way. We celebrate who we are but also celebrate the diversity in the world around us. These discussions can also crossover into conversations around different religions and ethnicities. Because let’s face it, this world has many prejudices, the biggest being race.
Do unto others as you would them to you.
Modeling behaviour is key when we are raising young and impressionable minds. However teaching them to be mindful of others is also very important. When you are having a bad day, the best thing that could happen to you would be someone to hold your hand and give you permission to have a moment to recover. That connection is empathy. Empathy holds an important role in social and emotional intelligence, and how you empathise as a parent can make a huge difference in how your children learn to empathise with the people in the world around them. In our fast paced and forever changing world we are losing our ability to connect with those closest to us, so how do we expect them to practice empathy when we ourselves don’t make an effort to make time for it.
‘We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour’~Maya Angelou.
In addition to nurturing empathy, it is important to expose our children to the many different races and cultures of the world. Read stories from around the world, watch movies in different languages and try to connect with people in your community who are not the same as you. As parents when we venture out of our comfort zones to make friends with and ‘break bread’ with people from different backgrounds and cultures than our own we create a normalcy in being different such that being different is not the main point of conversation any more. It also means that the feeling of belonging is not restricted to finding people who look like you, speak the language you speak or worship the same way that you worship. Rather the feeling of belonging breaks these barriers and becomes more about being seen and heard for who you are and not what you are.