This post is the sixth in our “How do I talk to my child about?” series. We are covering bad language
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Today’s post comes courtesy of my sister-in-law, Amanda. Having grown up in the South and being part of a mixed race marriage, she has a good perspective on the situation.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”―Martin Luther King Jr.
One would be hard pressed to find a person who is not at least passingly familiar with Martin Luther King Jr. Although he died almost fifty years ago, he remains an icon of the Civil Rights movement. His impassioned and inspired speeches moved many hearts and helped the nations rethink the idea of ‘separate, but equal’. He strove to bring an end to racism and give rise to a day where it didn’t matter what colour a person’s skin was, he’d be treated as truly equal.
In this day and age, one would think that racism is a word that is antiquated and no longer necessary to be used save in the annals of history books as we recount our sordid past. While the efforts of leaders such as King Jr. and Rosa Parks have not gone without positive results, it would be an error to claim that racism no longer exists in our society. The countless marches and sit-ins that marked the fifties and sixties in America may not occur in the manner they once did, but racism is, unfortunately, far from dead.
I am not black, but I have experienced racism first hand.
Although some would maintain that racism occurs against only those of colour, that is not necessarily always the case. Growing up, I lived in a majority black area and attended majority black schools. For me, colour just wasn’t something I really thought about — unless someone specifically brought it up. Unfortunately, I was the recipient of some degrading remarks simply because I was white, usually by other students who didn’t know me. They simply saw the colour of my skin which set me apart from the people around me. Later in life, my experience with racism manifested itself through comments from members of my own family after they found out my beau (now husband) was black. Since then, I’ve also overheard comments from time to time in regards to my children.
My children didn’t bring up the topic of skin colour until my eldest was five. Even then, it was simply a matter of observing the difference between the colour of their skin and my own. Later, however, when certain things had been said around them — comments which did not escape their acute hearing — I found myself faced with the necessity of explaining racism. Hopefully, you won’t find it necessary to respond to such a situation, but racism is a topic that will most likely come up at some point in the lives of all children. So how does one go about discussing it?
First and foremost, I’ve made a concerted effort to be honest with my children as much as possible. While there are certain things I will not divulge, I don’t want to shelter them from the world so much that they aren’t prepared to deal with what this fallen world will try to dish out at them. There are times when I’ve had to gloss over details, but when I discuss hard topics with them, I try to be as forthright and honest with them as I feel they are ready for. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to discuss something like this with your child, consider their age, but also their maturity. How much detail do you wish to go into on the subject? Truthfully, that is something only each parent can answer in regard to their own child, but also don’t be afraid to be completely honest. Children can and will surprise you with how much they are able to not only comprehend, but also come to terms with.
Because I am an imperfect model, I try to refer to the Bible whenever the subject of racism comes up. What does the Bible have to say about racism? More than you might realize. While the specific term itself isn’t used, there are situations in the Bible that speak volumes on the subject. Perhaps the most famous one is the Good Samaritan. Even those who aren’t Christian are often familiar with this story as told by Jesus. What I think needs to be remembered is not only did the Good Samaritan care for a stranger he came across on the road, he did so fully knowing who that stranger was. Who was that, you might ask? A Jew.
Why is that so important? While the Samaritans shared ancestry with the Israelites, they were not considered a part of their people. They were unclean, to be avoided, and were generally reviled. For the Samaritans, the feeling was mutual, so to have a Samaritan actually help a Jew was a scandal in itself. Yet that was what Jesus commanded — it doesn’t matter how different you are, you are commanded to love unconditionally, without regard for culture, creed, or, yes, even race.
In addition to the previous passage, one of the most important points I like to bring out can be found in the very first chapter of the Bible. Genesis one, verse seven states:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
If God created man in his image, then we are a reflection of God whether we are black, white, green, purple, or pink with yellow polka dots. God never said that he created blue people in his image but not red. ‘Man’ in that instance was used in a collective sense, not restricted to only a certain people.
Lastly, I try to point everything, even discussions about racism, to Christ. The most famous passage in the Bible is John 3:16 which states the following:
“For God so loved the world,[a ]that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Greek word used in that passage is the term ‘kosmon’ which, as is translated here, means ‘world’ in a narrow sense, but ‘universe’ in a broader sense. He died for the ‘kosmon’. In other words, the cosmos – the universe. EVERYONE, no matter what colour their skin. How then can we say one group of people aren’t as important as another simply because of their colour? God didn’t differentiate, and neither should we.
How would you discuss racism with your children?