BY TASHA BURGOYNE, GRACE ATTENDER & BLOGGER
The broken place of hatred is one of the major crises of our times. In this divided time, Grace Church can truly be different. We can be a community where hatred has no place. And, if we search Scripture, we are going to discover a way of living that will bring healing to this broken world. And, to do that, we are starting with our youngest kids to our oldest adults! In honor of Hope Month, we are re-releasing this blog to give you helpful ways to teach your kids about racism, inclusion, and diversity.
The summer I turned 6 years old, my family moved from New York to Japan. Even at that young age, and despite the fact that I was bi-racial and growing up in a multi-cultural home, I was aware that we were moving to a place where things would be different than I was used to. In my fear of the unknown, my first reaction was to see the unfamiliar as something bad. I remember kicking my sneaker against a crack in the sidewalk and declaring to my parents that I wasn’t going to move somewhere where they spoke another language and weren’t American. My parents let me feel and express those feelings, but they affirmed the good of what was to come. We still moved, and over time, I learned to see our new home and the new stories we were surrounded with as beautiful and important.
Teaching our children about the broken place of hatred and racism can feel overwhelming. And when our children notice diversity it can feel awkward. Instead of affirming the natural noticing that we all do, it’s tempting to hush and shame our children if they make mention of differences. In an effort to distance and disassociate with this broken place, many use the word colorblind as a blanket fix and by doing so, close the door on learning and reinforce a fear of the unfamiliar.
However, noticing is a natural and important starting point for learning and it should be a safe place for grace and truth to take root and thrive. As parents, or those who work with children in any capacity, God has given us a unique and important role that can help bring healing to this place.
Here are a few simple things we can do that can make a huge difference:
1. Notice color. Be willing to look around and see what you and your children are surrounded by. Look at their classrooms, your friend circles, the street you live on, their sports teams, the T.V shows you watch, the toy aisle where you shop. Do you see a variety when it comes to skin color? What colors and stories are missing?
Welcome opportunities to bring more diversity into your home and family life. The best way to do this is with real people, but you can also take a step in the right direction by simply being intentional about the toys you buy, the shows you watch and the books you read. If your kids see you only choosing things that resemble majority culture, it sends a message. Representation is very important, not only for minorities but for everyone.
2. Create a safe place for your children to notice differences they encounter and process what they notice with you. Be affirming when they notice something and don’t shame them for noticing or being afraid of something new or unfamiliar. Let them “kick their feet on the sidewalk” if they are afraid, but lead them beyond that point with grace, truth and by example.
3. Pray for exposure and expect God to answer. Ask God to send someone into your life who looks very different than you and has a different background than you. A friend recently shared that years ago she realized that everyone she was friends with was white. She didn’t have any friends of color. So, she prayed. And God answered by placing a Korean American girl in her life who eventually became her best friend. And he didn’t stop there. This friend of mine is now a huge change-agent when it comes to healing this broken place in the world. Are we willing to pray and let God lead us where his heart is?
4. Tell diverse stories. We must be intentional about sharing diverse stories with our children. They need to learn about what’s happened in our country and in the world in truthful ways. This may mean we have new stories to seek out and learn ourselves. None of us are too old to learn. Just this week, I heard about a first grader who read a book about Malala. After reading that book, this young Midwestern girl decided that Malala is her hero. I had to wonder if this girl had ever heard of another girl with a name like Malala before the book she read. A simple book opened up her understanding of the world and what it meant to be a hero. Our children need to know that everyday characters and heroes come in all colors, from every culture, including their own, but not only their own.
Here are some great books that can be a starting point for young children: