Do you want your children to see beauty in all shades of skin, to value diversity, and to know that God has created all people in His image? Do you want your home to be one where people of all cultures and skin tones are valued and honored?
I grew up in a household where people of other races and cultures were the punchline of jokes, where different was scary, and where you definitely did not want to meet a “big black guy” in a dark alley.
I don’t believe that my parents were hateful people or even intentionally prejudiced. They were the products of a generation that grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s when Jim Crow laws were still in effect; when black children were forbidden to attend the same schools as white children; when a black woman was not permitted to sit in the front of a bus with a white woman; and when drinking fountains were labeled “colored.”
As a little boy born in 1950, my dad couldn’t understand why his mother would not allow him to drink from the “colored” water fountain. He was hoping the water might spray out in a rainbow of colors.
As I grew in my faith and in my love for other people and cultures, I came to realize that the subtle prejudices I had learned as a child were not biblical. Now that I have a family of my own, I want to be intentional about raising my boys to know that all people, regardless of race or culture, are valuable to God.
I want my sons to stand up for those who are mistreated.
I want my children to see beauty and value in all shades of skin.
I want my boys to have friends from many different cultures and races.
I want my kids to know that God has created all people in His image.
I want my family to know that God desires for people of every tribe, nation and language to worship Him.
I want my sons to know that the color of your skin does not make you any more or less important, intelligent, or valuable.
I want my children to show compassion to all people, regardless of race, color, nationality or social status.
I was thankful to find out that the elementary school my children attend is one of the most diverse in the whole district. When my son brought home his class picture, I was excited to see that there were 12 white faces and 9 children from hispanic, black or asian families. I love that my kids attend a school where different colors of skin and cultural backgrounds are normal.
As a newborn photographer, I have photographed black babies, Indian babies, Asian babies, hispanic babies, and white babies in my home-studio. It has been an honor to welcome each and every family into our home. I hope that my children grow up to understand that diversity is a normal part of our lives.
I remember the first time one of my boys became aware of the differences in skin color. A dear friend from Nigeria brought her daughter over to play at our home. Even though the kids had played together several times before, my six year old son suddenly exclaimed: “Mommy, her skin is a different color than mine!”
To which I responded, “I know! Isn’t it beautiful?”
I want my children to value differences and to see beauty in diversity.
Another time, looking down at his sun-kissed summer arms, one of my boys asked me, “Do some people really have WHITE skin?” I chuckled and explained that yes, our skin is actually considered “white.” To which he replied, “But our skin isn’t white, it’s tan!”
Very true, little man. The differences in our skin colors are really not so “black and white” (pun intended) as they may seem.
The color of our skin is determined by the amount of a pigment called “melanin.” Some people have less melanin, resulting in fair skin and hair, others have more melanin resulting in darker skin and hair. Even within so-called “races”, there are wide varieties of pigmentation. Not all “black” people have the same shade of skin tone, and most “white” people really do not look white at all.
Did you know that as far as science and genetics are concerned, we share approximately 99.9% of our DNA with every other person on the planet? That’s a whole lot of DNA that we all have in common.
But sadly, despite the reality of science, racism is still real and alive. It has existed in our country since the very beginning. As I mentioned earlier, segregation laws were still in place as recently as the 1960’s.
It seems absurd to think that these laws existed within the lifetime of many people alive today. And yet, it is even more ridiculous that racial discrimination and hate crimes still exist at all!
But really, not very surprising. Underneath all the hatred and fear lies a much deeper problem — the problem of sin.
Until the sin problem in our own hearts is dealt with, until our hearts are flooded with the grace and love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ, the problem of hate and fear and oppression and injustice will continue to pervade our society.
So, what are some ways you can talk to your kids about diversity, discrimination, and racism?
1. Educate them. Talk to your kids about the history of racism in our country. THIS IS A GREAT ARTICLE from ParentToolKit.com that gives parents a lot of helpful tools to begin a discussion about diversity and discrimination.
2. Read books about different cultures and with characters of different colors. Make sure your home library contains a diversity of cultures. HERE IS A GREAT LIST of children’s books that address some of the unfair treatment that black people and other races have experienced in our country. (Have I mentioned that books are one of my favorite ways to connect with my kids and teach them valuable life lessons?)
3. Choose TV shows and movies that have main characters from cultures other than your own.
4. Be intentional about finding friends of other races and inviting them into your home. Let your kids know that this is normal. “Of course” we have friends of all different skin colors. Doesn’t everyone?
5. Ask your kids if they’ve ever seen instances of racism at their school or on the bus. Discuss what it might look like. (Someone making fun of another child or being mean, because of the color of their skin). Explain to your kids that it’s never okay to participate, and they should try to interject and stop it from happening. As soon as possible, they should let an adult know what was going on.
6. As a family, never participate in any type of joking or talk that implies that one race or color of people is any less educated or less important than another.
7. Be a good listener. Allow friends of other ethnicities to share stories about the injustice or discrimination they have experienced. Don’t belittle what others have felt or experienced. Let them know you care, and that you want your family to be advocates for equality and justice in our society.
8. Learn what the Bible has to say about loving people from all races, cultures, languages and nations. I have created sets of printable Bible verse cards that talk about justice, oppression, and God’s desire for all people to worship him. Feel free to use these cards as conversation starters with your family.
Here’s a fun little fact for you… My husband likes to tell people that he is African American. If you know my husband, he is the whitest white boy you’ll ever meet. BUT, he was born in Kenya and lived there for three years of his life! So technically, he IS African-American. He spoke fluent Swahili as a child, and he held dual Kenyan citizenship until he turned 18. (As a teacher at our local urban high school, he thought it was hilarious to tell his students this fun fact on the first day of school.) One day I hope to be able to take my kids to Kenya and explore the land where their Daddy was born.