...and in many ways, we are all the same. So why is there so much hate these days? Why does looking or being “different” create so much suspicion and animosity?
In school kids make fun of other children who “look” different, it can be a child with prophylactics, who wears glasses, or even who comes to school in tattered clothes because of family finances. Maybe the child comes from a different culture which has a unique clothing style, or even wears a pendant of their faith. Some can make fun of children who may have a different skin color, or are overweight, or can’t speak fluent English, or anything that is different from “the cool kids”. Parents and teachers need to teach children about diversity in both culture, lifestyle and economic means.
Anti-bias education, at home and in the school, is a crucial step to opening children’s minds to acceptance. Things like teaching children that occupations are not gender-specific will help to bridge the gender gap, knowing that a little girl can grow up to lead a construction crew, or a little boy can study to be nurse (as examples) are ways to help children live up to their own personal potentials despite societal norms. Encouraging children to take personal pride in their cultural traditions AND accepting others who do the same will help them as they grow up and are exposed to diversity.
Exposing children to anti-bias books (appropriate for their age) will help to open their minds to peoples’ differences and humanity. It’s important not to stay quiet or discourage conversation — if the child questions how a girl can grow up to be the President for example, don’t admonish them. Encourage conversation and help them, through subtle questions and discussion starters, see all the things they are capable of and that no profession is specific to one gender. Ask them about hobbies and dreams. Maybe a young boy will tell others he likes to sew or crochet and the other children giggle, don’t admonish but tell them about fashion designers like Michael Kors or the tailor down the street. Help to foster interest in other children’s cultures and traditions by giving an opportunity to share fun customs and possibly sample cuisines.
When parents and teachers have open minds and accept the differences EVERYONE has, it is easier to teach and help children to learn anti-bias behavior. It’s not too late to start. Watch the words you use, avoid stereotypes, open yourself to learning about others and offering knowledge about your own background. Stress the similarities, but don’t ignore the variety of things others can bring to any conversation or experience. Let’s work on being humans first and accept those around us without prejudice.