Over the last several months we have had far too many reminders that we are not living in a post racial society. Whether you cite the events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, the University of Oklahoma, or the murders of nine people attending bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, we have a problem that is not being dealt with in a way that produces change. As parents, we should be concerned about raising kids in a society where race and class still determine whether you are treated fairly or if you can be safe (even in church). Learning to appreciate diversity is a value that is taught, just like discrimination and racial bias is learned behavior. Parents are not the only influencers of their children, but they are the most influential.
In this post, we will explore three simple things you can do as parents to both start a movement to eradicate racial discrimination and elevate the value of diversity.
- Exposure. I grew up in a lower middle class Black neighborhood in Miami, FL. We did not have extreme poverty, but no one was even close to being wealthy. It was a decent neighborhood, but there was no diversity. My mother made sure that we experienced a life outside of our neighborhood. She put us in more diverse schools with people from different parts of the world, like Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Colombia, etc. I also played on sports teams with Blacks, Latinos, and Whites. As a result, I developed friendships with people who had different backgrounds than me. We ate together, played together, hung out at each others homes and did life together. I cannot remember a time in my life when that was not the case. And I think it is has helped me feel comfortable in almost any environment.
- Parental Engagement. My parents were also very good about asking us questions about our friends and different experiences we had at school. They wanted to know how we were processing these unique experiences. It was also a way to keep tabs on any misperceptions or bias that we should not have. They were also intentional about showing us movies or telling us stories about very controversial things in the world. It was their way of making sure we were not ignorant to what was happening around us.
- Safe Environment. Home was always a place where my sister and I could talk about anything with our parents. If anything came up that was not in line with what we were being taught, our parents always asked us questions. We were never made to feel bad something we said that was ignorant or inaccurate. Our parents used it as an opportunity to help us process. As a result, we never felt like we could not share our thoughts. Home was a safe place to dialogue.
If we are intentionally exposing our kids to differences, engaging them regularly about what is going on in the world, and creating a safe environment to dialogue about race and cultural differences, we can help our kids value others above themselves (Philippians 2:3). And we can began to produce change that helps the world see that we are one body made up of many parts (1 Corinthians 12:14).
Hours of HGTV, repurposing old furniture for his Etsy shop and an affinity towards Architectural Digest are not the things you would think a former NFL player would be into. But it’s true. (Just ask his wife, Ericka.)
Besides being a little domestic and artsy, the former Redskin and Dolphin is a serious leadership development junkie as well. At NCC, Joshua Symonette brings that passion for leadership to our Kingstowne location as campus pastor, and he helps support staff development. He lives in Alexandria with his three fashionistas: Ericka (wife), Jaylah and Joslyn.