While racism cultural stereotypes seems to be at center stage in our country, our family is trying to teach our children to appreciate all colors and cultures. Here are some ways we are working on it!
By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s husband!)
Today a video reached my Facebook news feed, and I was appalled by what I saw.
Two white girls were given black dolls and reacted very negatively to the gift. One girl even threw the doll on the floor.
I won’t post a link to the video here because I have no desire to give the spectacle any more views than it already has. Some of the comments on the video made me sick to my stomach.
Let me be clear: I do not fault those cute girls for their reaction.
For the most part, they have been taught that response from those around them.
In addition, I don’t really know all the circumstances around the video, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions.
As I watched the video, I only thought about the complete opposite reaction that our own girls have had at receiving ethnic dolls and actually even requesting them.Erin and I both love learning about and experiencing other cultures here in the U.S. and internationally.
In addition to visiting several states, together we have traveled to China, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Canada. Separately, we have been to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Israel, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico.
We knew that when we had children, we wanted to raise them with the same appreciation for others. Really, this stems from how Jesus loved people, no matter who they were.
Many, including myself, were raised with the term “colorblind” to try and ignore color in an effort to promote racial harmony.
But on some level, I have determined that recognizing the splendid array of colors is far more enjoyable and purposeful.
Ignoring these beautiful characteristics overlooks a central part of who we are and what makes us special.
When we came to be colorblind or to “not see someone’s color” we inadvertently remove a part of life and what has shaped us. Instead, we can enjoy the beauty that God created.
Regardless of skin color, clothes, food, or language, we, as parents, can instill in our children an acceptance and respect for everyone.
Along with this video and the other cultural issues over that last few months, there are some simple things you can do at home to promote ethnic or cultural awareness, acceptance, and understanding with your children:
Dolls or Toys
One way that we decided to encourage this awareness was by buying different types of dolls for them to play with.
All three of our girls have red hair, and they all have red-headed dolls that look like them.
However, it is also essential for us that they have dolls that don’t look like them. As such, they have dolls that are African, Asian, Latino, and European.
(*Note: The Hearts for Hearts girls were out of production but will be re-released in November 2016.)
They love their dolls that share their red hair and fair skin, and they adore princesses like Ariel, Merida, and Anna. Yet, they are equally attached to their dolls that have skin colors of various shades.
It may seem trivial to make such an effort to provide our girls with dolls that look different from them, but we think it is of utmost importance for several reasons.
Children have an uncanny ability to see skin tones for the beautiful colors that God created. They learn much from their parents, including their ideas on race.
It is completely useless to ignore the color we all have. Instead, we should celebrate it, and teach our kids to do the same.
Our children merely see color as part of who that person is, not in a negative light that adults often paint.
My own daughter has referred to one of her friends as having beautiful chocolate skin. It was a compliment and an acknowledgement of God’s beauty in His creation of her friend.
As kids play with dolls, they learn to care for them and love them regardless of how they look. They want to learn more about the ethnic background and acceptance comes naturally.
Some of the dolls we love the most are the Hearts for Hearts dolls. These dolls are based on real girls and include short stories about their lives.
For the guys, there several heroes who are black or other ethnicities: Finn from Star Wars, Avengers Falcon and Nick Fury, Justice League Green Lantern and Cyborg, X-Men Storm, and several other action figures.
There are tons of other toys that foster cultural appreciation as well.
Books or TV Programs
In addition, some of the other dolls the girls play with also include books that introduce historical or social concepts.
These are great for having conversations with your children about how things were in the past and how they are today.
There are numerous other books that support racial reconciliation and cultural acceptance.
There are countless television programs or movies that demonstrate cultural understanding and ethnic acceptance.
It goes without saying that as we journey through life, we will make friends from all walks. In doing so, our children can become friends as well.
As they go to school or participate in extracurricular activities they will rub shoulders with kids with various ethnic backgrounds.
They will play with neighborhood kids — some who look like them, some who have different skin colors, and some from other countries and cultures.
I have read several posts recently from biracial or cross-cultural families that are struggling with the complexities and challenges of our society–posts discussing:
- how their kids are always the bad guys in cops and robbers
- how neighbors have called the cops on their kids when other neighborhood kids are behaving the exact same way
- how some are afraid of racial/cultural stereotyping.
We can all do our part to teach our children to appreciate and accept anyone, no matter how the look. In fact, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We need to have these conversations with our children.
The best we can do is encourage these friendships and allow our kids to appreciate all the differences and similarities that we share.
While I am definitely not one to look for racism in everything, as some are in the habit of doing, I am also not naive enough to think that it is dead.
This is not an easy topic to address and is one that will not be solved overnight, but we, as parents, can take steps with our children to ensure that it does not continue with them into the next generation.
Have conversations with your kids. Discuss the hard things and don’t just ignore them.
I definitely do not claim to have all the answers, but I do know that by raising a generation of children who appreciate color that we can help work toward a cure for this terrible sickness.