Growing up, I can remember going to the first grade and being the only black kid in class. My skin color was different from that of the other kids, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I didn't have "yellow" hair. And at recess, I was often left to play alone. Nobody wanted to play with the brown kid — and I truly didn't understand why. At 6 years old, perhaps my classmates didn't either. But due to their parents' beliefs, they had been taught to stereotype and ostracize me.
As parents, we look to teachers, politicians or religious leaders to eliminate racism. But that process truly starts at home with open conversations about race, ethnicity and bigotry. As we prepare to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday on Jan. 20 and Black History Month in February, it's a great time to answer some questions about complicated topics and begin an honest dialogue with your child about race.
Not only do our children inherit our good looks and ways of doing things, but they also adopt our attitudes about the world around us. Here's how you can help them learn to live and work closely with people whose race, religion or culture may be different from their own:
Also, be sure to show your child that you love all people. Do you have friends of other races? Have you ever bought them a doll or toy of a different ethnicity? Through example, if children see that their parents are open and loving, then they are more likely to be, too.
Having an African-American president also offers teachable moments and opportunities to start meaningful conversations about race with our kids. By encouraging our children to reach across racial and ethnic lines and embrace differences, we help them to lead richer, fuller lives and to recognize the humanity of all people.
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