How can we teach children to celebrate diversity?
Years ago, as I dropped my daughter off at preschool one day, I noticed a girl point to a boy and ask her mom, “Why is his skin brown?” To which the mom said, “Shhh! He might hear you.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with pointing out same and different. Kids do it all the time—in fact, it’s a developmental milestone that occurs around age 3 or 4. In their book NurtureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman note research indicating that nearly 75 percent of white parents never or almost never talk about race with their children. Parents of color, on the other hand, are three times more likely to talk with their kids about race, according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
As we’re called into deeper community through Christ, we’re called into a deeper understanding of each other, celebrating diversity.
When a child in your life points out difference, acknowledge it. In this case, perhaps a better response might have been, “Yes, that boy looks different from you. People come in all shades, that’s the way we’re made.” In a few sentences you can affirm your child’s observation and also tell her that different doesn’t equal bad.
Start a journey in celebrating diversity and bring your kids along. You may be surprised at their ability to live out the belief that we are one through Jesus Christ.
Go a little out of your way to experience something new. My husband went to pick up dinner a few weeks ago. The food wasn’t ready so he walked around the strip mall and explored a nearby Lebanese grocery store. That night we ate date cookies for dessert and learned a bit about the store. Going to a place where you are the minority can be a great learning experience—and you may find a tasty treat too. Plan a visit with your child to an ethnic grocery store in your area.
Give culturally sensitive gifts. In her parenting blog Raise and Shine, Rachel Reinke Nevergall suggests giving your children dolls of varying skin tones, Crayola crayons of various skin tones, and culturally sensitive games and books. “Racial diversity is a fact in our country and the more we are comfortable around it, the easier it is to talk about,” she said. For Nevergall’s full gift guide, visit raiseandshine.squarespace.com/blog.
Read to your kids. Read for yourself. Here are a few books that helped our family grow: (for kids) The Colors of Us by Karen Katz; Sesame Street’s We’re Different, We’re the Same; Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; (for adults) Across A Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande; Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates; The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Color of Water by James McBride.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).