We live in a culturally rich neighborhood; there are Latino, Caucasian, African, Hispanic, Asian, and African American families living in our neighborhood. The school Darling 1 will go to starting in September is equally culturally rich. Some might see this as a negative point, but I see it as a positive.
So often our society uses the word "toleration" when discussing diverse cultures and practices. Tolerate is defined as, enduring without repugnance; putting up with something; or allowing the existence, presence, practice or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permitting; from the Latin tolerates, meaning "to bear."
Toleration really isn't much. It shouldn't be viewed as much of an achievement on one's part. It's just a tad past putting up a fight against something or hating something or disallowing something. Tolerating is what someone does when trying to enjoy a lovely summer night while swatting at swarms of annoying mosquitoes.
I would make the argument that tolerating differences is not enough. Teaching toleration will not change our reactions and perceptions to those who are different in skin color, religion, education, backgrounds, languages, beliefs and family dynamics. Teaching our children (& ourselves) to see differences as an opportunity to learn from someone and embrace the unique and diverse experiences each of us bring to our society should be our goal.
Everyone is Different
To accomplish this, we must accept that each of us is different from other human beings in some way. A conservative relative from Texas is fond of saying, "Well, that's different!" about the more liberal and unfamiliar practices he has encountered on various trips to visit us in Minnesota. It's true; things are done differently in different neighborhoods, in different states, in different regions, across our great country and certainly beyond our borders. And this is good news.
If we were all the same in looks, in beliefs, in tastes, in ideas and in thoughts there would be no passion in life; there would be no reason for changing how we do things or when we do things or why we do things; there would be little to explore and learn; and there would be no debates or discussions. In short, we would be an awfully dull society.
How can we, as parents, be sure to teach our children to embrace diversity in every way? Here are a few ideas:
Keep lines of communications open with your kids; talk frequently and openly about a variety of subjects, including news stories, political issues, religions, ideas in general and history;
Expose your family to as many cultures as possible through neighborhood events, museums, festivals, books, music, etc.;
NEVER EVER tell jokes that put down or poke fun at any ethnicity, gender, socio-economic group, disability or any group of people;
If someone is making racial remarks in front of you and/or your child take a stand against such remarks and tell the person why you object to such statements;
Treat all persons with respect and honor;
Do not fear people who are dressed differently than you or look different than you or speak another language than you;
Be open-minded, but don't compromise your own beliefs; and
Of course, meet and get to know as many people from different backgrounds as possible.
These are but a few suggestions about teaching your kids to embrace differences among our fellow citizens. How do you ensure your kids will grow up with open minds and open hearts and yet still be secure about their own belief systems? Over and out...
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