I love the juxtaposition of these
"Hell is other
people." - Jean-Paul Sartre
assignments." - Marianne Williamson
What I most appreciate about
the difference between these two statements is their inherent placement of
responsibility for oneís happiness. >From Sartreís perspective, the
other people in our lives are the source of our pain, suffering, and misery.
Itís a vision of arrows being shot from others toward the speaker.
From Williamsonís point of
view, each of us needs to understand that there is something to be learned
about ourselves from our relationships with others -- hence her deliberate
choice of the word "assignment."
Given their disparate
attitudes, which of the speakers do you envision as having a happier and more
fulfilling life? Toward which direction do you want to steer your child?
It is with this in mind that we
must take a look at the attitudes we present to our children about the variety
of other people in their lives.
The 2000 census shows that our
country is becoming increasingly diverse in its population. Many of us live
and work in communities with an assortment of members of various religious,
ethnic, and racial groups, though many do not. We owe it to our children to
prepare them for a future in which they will interact with people whose
beliefs, practices, and rituals emanate from faraway places.
Racism is still a force that we
must confront. Just because we have come a long way since the abolition of
slavery and segregation doesnít mean that we donít have a long way to go
toward the time that there really is "liberty and justice for all"
Consider these steps suggested
by Dr. Debra Van Ausdale, co-author of The First R: How Children Learn Race
- Actively form friendships
with adults who belong to other ethnic and racial groups.
- Do not place these
friends in the position of being experts on racial and ethnic issues.
- Recognize and
encourage your childís curiosities and abilities to explore the world
with a sense of fairness.
- *Accept that most youngsters
have more social insight and understanding than adults want to admit.
- Point out instances of
everyday racism and discuss them, even with a very young child.
- Take your child to
multiracial events and multicultural activities in your community.
- Encourage your child to make
friends with children of many racial and ethnic groups, then incorporate
these fiends and their families into your familyís activities.
- Be watchful for instances of
people combating racism in the community, and bring positive examples of
anti-racism to your childís attention.
- Encourage children to read
books that offer stories they can identify with and that actively promote
greater understanding of all people.
HELPFUL BOOKS FOR PARENTS
- Hate Hurts: How
Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice, by Caryl Stern-LaRosa and Hellen
- Iím Chocolate, Youíre
Vanilla, by Barbara Mathias and Mary Ann French
- Raising the Rainbow
Generation: Teaching Your Children to be Successful in a Multicultural
Society, by Darlene S. Hopson and Derek S. Hopson.
- Why Are All the Black Kids
Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About
Race," by Beverly Daniel Tatum
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
Children will benefit by seeing
people of different cultures and races in their lives, per Dr. Van Ausdaleís
suggestions. An additional step that parents can take is to be sure that
children see a wide variety of books in which people of different races and
cultures are portrayed as working and playing in a peaceful co-existence. Here
are some choices:
- The Magic School Bus series,
by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen, shows children learning and
exploring with a multiracial group of peers.
- Jamaica and Brianna by
Juanita Havill, illustrated by Anne Sibley OíBrien
- I Hate English! by
Ellen Levine, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
- Mrs. Katz and Tush by
- The Best Way to Play,
by Bill Cosby, illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
- Amazing Grace,
Boundless Grace, and Starring Grace, by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by
- Under Our Skin: Kids Talk
About Race, by Debbie Holsclaw Birdseye and Tom Birdseye, photos by Robert
Jay Davidson has been teaching
in San Francisco for 31 years; he teaches first grade. He is the author of
Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents, which
is available for $12.95 from Amazon.com. He can be reached through his website