My colleague was telling me a recent happening with her 4 year old daughter. She was reading a book about unsung heroes, about an African-American woman that courageously took part in the racial equality movement. Her daughter was confused, asked her mother why she had to do this. Her mother went on to try to explain that many years ago, people with dark color could not even go to school with people with light color, and showed her a picture from that time period. Her daughter immediately said, “oh, then this guy is in the wrong class, because he has dark hair!!”
That is when my colleague decided, why confuse her daughter with a strange, biased view point, when she has a very clear and straightforward view of the world already!
This made us think about how, exactly, can we teach our children about diversity and accepting differences in this day and age. Being exposed from a young age to a diverse environment will certainly be a good start, but is that enough? When children start to be exposed to extreme ideas and even prejudiced views, how can they maintain an unbiased viewpoint?
This article gives a few very basic but very important points. First, and foremost, parents should show by example how they should view other people. “Do as I say but not as I do” never works with children. Even our attitude, or what we tell our spouse about certain people will deeply influence our children’s view of others. Also, differences will come up, and children should be well aware of that. Being “blind to differences” is not realistic nor helpful in growing up to be an open, kind person. Children should know that there will be differences between people’s appearance, wardrobe, habits, foods, etc, and these are all things we can share and learn from each other.
I grew up most of my life in different parts of the US, but at home, we were very Japanese in culture. My mother cooked like a good Japanese wife, and we were only allowed to speak Japanese in the home. I remember going to school, being proud of my heritage, wanting to share the unique lifestyle I had, that was obviously different from my classmates. I remember my home-economics teacher asking my mother to come into class, to demonstrate how to make “sushi” (aka California rolls). I attribute this view of my different background, to the open minded view of my teachers and friends. I never felt like being different was humiliating, but rather, something to be proud of.
Here is a great list of 10 children’s books that teach diversity. These are not new books, some of them have been around for a few decades, but are great tools to talk about and see what your children have in their active, wonderful minds.
- Yumi Zaic
Unicultural team and trainers, sharing our views and experiences on everything cultural.