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Teaching Tolerance to Young Children: Raising Awareness About Racism
Tolerance Means Seeing Past the Skin and Into the Soul
Children, Bigotry and Racism: They Model Their Parents
The poem below 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. Recent reports across the United states, following the surprise presidential election, sadly indicate that children not only model their parents. Children are also influenced by the negative rhetoric and behavior of politicians in positions of leadership.
The moral of the poem 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.
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 may lead to false perceptions about other races and cultures and subsequent conflicts about associations and friendships.
The examples parents set, in particular, are far more powerful and have a longer lasting influence on shaping young children than media figures or gaming devices. However, negative political campaigns and elected officials can obviously have a significant impact as the country has witnessed.
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." This is sadly illustrated in the poem below.
Diversity and Tolerance Displayed
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
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.
"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
© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans