The images of racial division are everywhere we look across our country, and there are some difficult questions that we need to address with our children. One of the topics we need to discuss is how we can help build a foundation of racial inclusion within our own homes and communities.
This is a challenging topic, and based on your race and ethnic background, it might take on different layers than I will broach here. However, there are some steps that all of us can take to help create racial unity, judge everyone on their merits, and foster in our children an ability to see people for who they are rather than what they look like.
1. Be Honest With Your Kids
Your children are probably aware of what’s been happening in the news — with the murders of five Dallas police officers and the ongoing racial tensions between police and African-Americans. Your kids likely have questions and they need to feel confident and comfortable speaking to you honestly about their concerns and fears. If you create an environment in your home where they can ask you anything, that will be a good first step to examining these issues and finding ways to make a difference.
2. Don’t Use Words or Phrases That Divide
In the privacy of our homes, we speak differently than we do in public. It’s human nature. But if our children hear us using words that divide or words that denigrate others, they will embrace that language and adopt it as their own. That cannot happen. If you have certain beliefs, fine. But it’s not necessary to force those beliefs onto your children.
3. Speak Up When Something Happens
While you are out and about in your community and you see someone being marginalized or profiled, speak up about it, if it’s safe to do so. This is a way that your children can see with their own eyes what it looks like to stand up for someone and try to improve relations between racial or ethnic groups. If you want to take it a step further and safely rally or demonstrate for change, include your children and explain to them why you’re doing it and what you hope to see accomplished. It’s a powerful thing for a young person to see a political or social movement in person.
4. Talk About the Diversity in Their Classroom or Activity Groups
Your child goes to school with other kids or are involved in activities with other kids who look differently than they do. It's a given. So explain to your child that there was a time when racial groups couldn’t go to the same schools and how fortunate they are to live in a time of greater inclusion. Your children probably don’t even think of their classmates in terms of race because that’s how they’ve been raised. If so, that’s a good thing. Encourage it.
5. Build Your Friend Base With Inclusivity
If you feel like your social circle is filled with people of the same racial background, maybe it’s time to branch out. This is not to say that you need to be phony or contrived about creating these friendships. This is to say that you might need to ask yourself if you are purposely walling yourself off from people of other cultures or ethnicities because of a prejudice or bias. Sometimes we all need to be reminded to be a little more open-minded in our lives. It can lead to greater fulfillment and understanding of the world around us.
6. Explore Other Cultures
One simple thing that we can do for our children is to investigate other cultures. There are an infinite number of resources at your fingertips. You can visit museums dedicated to other races, watch documentaries on events of historical significance in the battle for civil rights or read books about the topic. Maybe by opening our children’s eyes to the history of this issue, it will help them sort out the problems facing us today and create a positive difference in their world.