Thursday, February 26, 2009
Raising Unbiased Kids in a Bigoted World
Written By Rev. Alan Riley
His personal blog can be found at www.alansblog.com
I started to title this article "Raising Color Blind Kids" but then I realized that is kind of silly. You can't be color blind, nor would you want to be. When it comes to skin pigment, we are who we are. God made us that way. Just as He filled the world with flowers and creatures of all different colors, He chose to fill the world with people of different colors. When it comes to culture, we also are who we are. We should be proud of our ethnic and cultural heritage. Those are things we celebrate, not things we should pretend don't exist. The problem comes when we start to think we are somehow superior to others because of our skin color, culture, economic status, or some other way in which we measure ourselves against others.
The challenge for us as parents is how do you raise kids who are unbiased in their feelings about and for others when bias and prejudice are so much a part of our society and our history?
Have you ever noticed children playing together? If you observe a group of young children from diverse backgrounds you will rarely if ever see them separate from each other because of race, language or any other of the things that tend to divide adults. It warms your heart when you see it. It also is frightening when you realize that little experiment proves that hate, bias, prejudice and bigotry are not innate human traits but are learned by our life experiences. That means if my children are prejudiced, they most likely learned it from me.
I am profoundly grateful for the legacy my parents left me in so many areas, but none more so than the way they taught me through words and actions to treat all people the way I would want them to treat me, with Christlike kindness and deference.
I am white and of Irish descent. And although I was born and spent the first seven years of my life in New York, I am very much a southerner. In fact, I was a southerner before I ever resided in the south. Both of my parents were from the south, so we were the only folks in our neighborhood in New York who ate grits and greens, said "Yes, ma'am" and even had a vegetable garden in our small back yard. We moved to Georgia when I was seven years old.
I was recently sharing childhood memories with a friend of mine. He is black and I'm white, but our childhood experiences are strikingly similar. I remarked that my father would have worn me out if he had ever heard me utter a racial slur. My friend burst out laughing and said, "Mine, too!"
We both realized that our upbringing and instruction shaped how we relate to people of other races and cultures, and freed us to be able to form genuine friendships.
Here's three suggestions on how you can raise unbiased kids today: Tell them. Be up front with your kids about the subject of race. Never miss an opportunity or let a teachable moment pass you by. Sometimes it can be tough - like when your young son finds a picture in a history book of a lynching and you have to explain why anyone would do something like that to another person. Be frank. Be honest. The famous saying goes that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Help them to learn from the mistakes of the past and the sins of previous generations. Teach them. There is no way you can justify racism from God's Word. We are told our Heavenly Father is not a respecter of persons, and we are commanded not to be either. The Lord Jesus told His disciples, "I must go through Samaria" and in doing so he embraced the most hated ethnic group of His day and treated them as equals and with love and compassion. His parable of the Good Samaritan flew in the face of racist religious leaders who believed God condoned and encouraged their bigotry. The Apostle Paul braved the condemnation of his people to take the Gospel to another group of ethnic outcasts - gentiles like you and me. You need to teach your children what God's word says about this subject. Show them. Sometimes our actions are so loud they drown out our words, and our kids can spot hypocrisy a mile off. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk! You need to model love and acceptance in front of your children, so they will see from your actions that they are to love others as Jesus does. Mother Teresa said it best: "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words." Finally, pray for your children, that God will use them in the days to come to help tear down the strongholds of racism and prejudice. They are your lasting legacy to the world.