Through The Eyes Of Children…

    Last night, my four year old son proceeded to tell me that the reason why my husband has brown skin is because he eats too much chocolate.  I immediately laughed and thought how adorable his point of view was compared to the way that society views most race issues.  Replacing all of the hateful racial epitaphs that are hurled around daily with food comparisons might help to diffuse all of the hurt and pain around this topic.

    My husband and I have always taught our children to look past the exterior of a person and to judge others by who they are inside.  Unfortunately, as soon as they attended school, they realized that the exterior of a person matters very much when it comes to society.  This opened up a virtual Pandora’s Box of conversations around this issue that sometimes included questions about race differences in general and, specifically, why their mother and father had different skin colors.

    I suppose it would have been easy to just brush these questions aside, however, we believe that these questions should be addressed at home first so that our children will be better equipped to deal with them when they come up in the outside world.  Raising the boys with cultural identity has always been an integral part of our childrearing practices so our children identify with being of Latin descent and have been immersed, from birth, in this culture.  It is easy to explain to them why we live the way we live and the importance of being proud of where our family comes from and who we are.
    The hard part is explaining why others are not as respectful of cultural or racial differences.  How can I explain to a seven year old and a four year old that some people hate others just because they are different?  There is no way to explain this to children because they cannot fathom that kind of hate.  If you observe children in a playground, they will immediately band together to play hide and seek or tag with no regard for cultural or gender differences.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all carry that level of tolerance into our adulthoods?

    The media certainly doesn’t help…It has become acceptable for young people to throw the N word around in normal conversations.  When did it become okay to use a word that has been used to oppress people of color for hundreds of years in daily conversation?  It’s everywhere, in music videos, TV shows, news reports, etc.  As far as I am concerned, any word that is offensive, racially biased, or just downright hurtful to others should not be part of my children’s vernacular.  I actually run my classroom in much the same manner and do not allow my students to use these words.  Unfortunately, I can only control this behavior when they are in school and they continue to use these words freely in the street and at home.

    I will not be able to shield my children from all of the discrimination and bigotry that exists in this world.  They will probably be discriminated against, at some point in their lives, for having a Spanish surname, for having a father with brown skin, for speaking Spanish, and God knows what else.  The only thing that I can control is teaching them how to love themselves, to be proud of where they come from, and to respect others even if they are different.  In an ideal planet, we would all be so lucky to see the world through the eyes of a child.

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