Teaching Tolerance to Young Children: Black Skin Appreciation
Accepting the Value of Black Skin
Children, Bigotry and Racism: They Model Their Parents
The poem that follows this essay is about the impact of an innocent "racist" statement delivered by one child and received by another.
Children unwittingly repeat what they hear and model what they see, good or bad. In the current moment of crisis in our country, parents are tasked with talking to their children about police brutality, racial injustice, white privilege, race relations, the inherent value of all human beings, and why Black lives matter.
It's a lot to cover in a time of turbulence and political uncertainty when children are confused by what they hear and observe in adults. They are also trying to learn on their own by what they are viewing on social media. The situation becomes more complicated with hypocritical examples set by parents and from those set by our elected officials and public servants, contrary to basic teachings of right and wrong. Children are not only influenced by behavior of their parents but by the negative rhetoric and behavior of politicians in critical positions of leadership.
The moral of the poem below is that parents, as well as leaders in positions of power, should pay attention to how they may be indoctrinating our precious children with messages of hate, bigotry, prejudice, and judgment, by what they are teaching them through exposure to untoward speech and behavior.
True belief systems are often manifested in one's statements that come in the form of jokes and jabs, "locker room talk," name-calling, or sexist, racist, xenophobic banter in conversations and public verbal attacks. Your children are listening. This can tend to make children uncomfortable as they are trying to work through something they feel is wrong but cannot articulate to their parents. This type of atmosphere can lead to false perceptions about other races and cultures. Subsequent conflicts impact how a child makes decisions for choosing friendships and peer groups. Prevention starts early at home. The change must begin with a parent engaging in deep self-evaluation of what messages they are sending to their children verbally and behaviorally, followed by frank conversation that includes a new way of setting an example for children to emulate.
The examples parents set in dealing with race and race relations, in particular, are powerful and have a long lasting influence on shaping young minds. Children model what they see. If we are not careful, we run the risk of raising another generation that includes two categories of misinformed children: those who are conditioned to believe that their little friends of color have "dirty skin" and those who internalize the belief that they have "dirty skin."
Intolerance of Black Skin
The Time: Late 1960s
The Place: Delaware Park, Buffalo, New York
The Setting: The Wanderers Cricket Club with visiting Canadian team; the children of team members play together as their fathers play cricket.
Out of his ignorant eye
he saw my "dirty skin"
Into my innocent ear, I heard
but stood perplexed.
He repeats in his Canadian-Anglo tone,
"Ur skinz durtee!"
Confused as I couldn't find the soil
He smiled sardonically, then laughed
Looking, for the first time, at a Black child.
Like the bruised apple of the bunch
Or the over-ripe brown banana in the fruit bowl
I was damaged goods in the eye
of a little White boy.
For the first time
I understood shame and quiet anger
Around age 9, for the first time,
I felt insulted.
Then I knew, for the first time
what it means
As a little Black girl
to have dirty skin.
Tolerance: Unconditional Loving Acceptance of All Humanity
The Dream - His and Ours
I Have A Dream
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
H.O.W. To Make A Difference
Humanity One World (H.O.W.) is a movement initiated by a Hubpages writer named Bill Holland, aka billybuc. He challenges all of us writers, individually and collectively, to do something to make a difference in our world of despair, violence, hunger, and injustice, by spreading love through action. This is my poetic contribution to the movement, focusing particularly on the negative impact of racism on children. For more information, visit Humanity One World.
© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans