We are living in a period of racial tension and turmoil. People have literally died fighting neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Reading and watching the news is emotionally exhausting, especially for those who feel under attack for being black, Jewish, Muslim, or anything not deemed acceptable by pro-white extremists.
As a parent, I get the desire to not want to deal with this. I get the urge to shield our children from the harsh reality of hate. I had plenty of those moments this month. I just wanted to shut out the world and embrace the joy of my children.
Everyone needs a break from the fight. But, even during our breaks, the fight for justice and equity for all rages on. We cannot shield our children from this fight. They need to understand the world we live in.
I’m not advocating showing “Roots” to Kindergartners or letting preschoolers see pictures of Holocaust victims. Those images are tough for even adults. However, there are small steps we can all take toward making our children, and ourselves, more understanding of racism, antisemitism and other prejudice.
It starts by rejecting the idea of “color blindness.” Color blindness, is the notion that all people are the same and we should look past their color. Color blindness is perpetuated by sentiments such as, “there’s only one race, the human race” and “all lives matter.” While, I believe most people who feel this way genuinely mean no harm, by saying, “I don’t see color,” we are saying we don’t see people.
When we don’t “see color,” we are dismissing the real and unique experiences of those who are different from us. I use the word color, but you can also apply this to religion, gender and anything else that differentiates us from one another. While I think, color blindness is first, and foremost, a white problem. We all are guilty of not truly seeing others.
Instead of color blindness, we need to teach color awareness. We need to help our kids not only recognize difference, but also how to be an ally and champion for others.
Acronyms are a great learning tool, so I developed a simple one to help us all do better.
I call it the “AWARE” method.
How To Be Color A.W.A.R.E.
A. Acknowledge the unique experiences of black, brown, non-christian and other minorities in our community and country.
W. Wait (and listen) before speaking over others whose voices need to be heard.
A. Ally yourself with those who are less privileged than yourself.
R. Resist and question ideas, institutions, behaviors and rhetoric which may be harmful to others.
E. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Learn from those not like yourself.
I know, I have a lot to learn, and this method is far from perfect. However, it is a start. I hope by encouraging one another to embrace and learn from those unlike ourselves, we can achieve a better world.
How do you teach your kids about diversity and tolerance? Please tell me about it in the comments.
For a deeper discussion on racism, antisemitism and appreciating difference, check out my recent Facebook video.