In the wake of last week’s national violence, adults must take advantage of opportunities to teach our children and students about the dangers of racism and violence. Here are some things to consider:
First and foremost talk with your kids or students about these events and racism or prejudice of any kind. Too many times difficult conversations never take place because they are difficult, but ignoring problems or believing they have no effect on us is simply ludicrous. Having hard and honest discussions – even if no conclusions are reached – is better than not wrestling through issues. #hashtags and slogans, even though effective for raising awareness, don’t change opinions; discussions do.
I make no apologies for growing up white and privileged, but I do apologize for times in my life when I failed – either out of ignorance or apathy – to get to know and consider people who are different from me. While I will never know what it is like to grow up black or poor or of a different faith background (or fill in your own blank), I can consider other points of view and realize that not everyone is like me. Atticus Finch says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” It’s far past time for us to walk around in someone else’s skin.
Teach your children how to listen; I mean really listen. Don’t fill time formulating your thoughts or daydreaming. Try having your kids repeat back to you what you just said before responding. In a world of thousands upon thousands of voices, no one is really being heard. Listening is the first step in relationship. The old adage “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason” makes so much sense but is so rarely practiced.
The issues facing our world today are not political issues; they are heart issues. Blaming a political party, candidate, or leader only teaches our kids that today’s problems can easily be solved by government. They cannot. Government may dictate behavior but only individuals can change their hearts.
Reading for entertainment is fantastic, and I’ve done my fair share of it this summer. Reading, however, should also be done to expand our thinking and hearts. Between the World and Me (Coates) and All-American Boys (Reynolds and Kiely) are excellent books for older youth and adults to begin a discussion on racism. Younger kids? Read The Sneetches by Dr. Suess. I am Malala, Brown Girl Dreaming, Same Kind of Different as Me, and Wonder are all compelling narratives told from someone who is treated differently because of the color of their skin, gender, or a handicap. Read their stories and open your heart.
Random Acts of Kindness
So much in the state of our world is out of our control, yet so much remains within our control. Today’s world is filled with random – or not so random – acts of violence so why not counter this violence with random – or not so random – acts of kindness. Put a cold Gatorade in the mail box with a note for your mail carrier, say “thank you” to anyone in any type of uniform, or send a card to a nursing home with instructions to deliver to someone who is lonely. I try to live by Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Change begins with you
Be bold enough to confront personal prejudices or wrong thinking.
Be gentle enough to help others do this in their lives.
Be brave enough to act on injustice.