Teaching Equality to your Children

My mother raised us to believe that all people were equal. It did not matter where you came from, what language you spoke, or what the color of your skin was. This was not surprising for a woman who was the daughter of immigrants and whose parents still talked with an accent.

how-kids-learn-about-race-pic  It was not until I was a freshman in college that I found out that my mother had been taught some serious racial bias. I was horrified. But the good thing was that she knew that the way she felt was wrong, and she did not want to transmit that thinking to my siblings and me.

I grew up in Newark which was racially and religiously diverse. I had friends of all colors and backgrounds. My mother too was raised in a diverse city environment. Her parents, though immigrants, had biases that they conveyed to her. It was only when she lived in Florida, while my father was in the service during WWII, that she saw the implications of that bigotry. Black and white restrooms, separate drinking fountains. Restaurants that would not seat African Americans.

But what really hit my mom was when she was walking down the sidewalk her first day in Florida and the African American man coming toward her stepped off the sidewalk into the street to let her pass. It hit her hard; this was just one tiny, everyday instance of someone feeling that they did not have the same rights to live, to be there on a simple sidewalk.

I was so lucky. My mom did not even have a high school diploma but she was smart enough to live by what she felt in her heart: that no one should have less rights than someone else. That no one should be scared because their children were a different religion or race.

Not all children are as lucky. If you remember the song from South Pacific called “You Have to be Taught,” it starts out “You have to be taught to hate and fear.” Little children are born thinking everyone is equal and only the negative and hateful things that they are taught changes them.

My mother never talked to us about race. I wish she had. I wish I hadn’t had to wait to find out how she had been raised and how she dealt with it. Talk to your children about race and equality. Don’t let their views be formed by others. Show them by what you say and how you act that you think all people are created equal. For help in talking to them, go to Embrace Race Website Link

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