My latest LinkedIn article struck a particular nerve with a white gentleman I’ve never met. His name is Lawrence Bloss – an Account Manager from New York who ran across the article and began engaging me in the comments. When I responded with an opinion he didn’t agree with he called me ignorant and began the typical “what about the police officers” rant we often see from those who have lived in privilege and are struggling coming to terms with what real equality may look like.
Lawrence’s name calling was a cake walk compared to the onslaught of hate mail and calls I began receiving. I wallowed for a few days in self-pity, but then I decided that was not the example I wanted to set for my young black daughter. Words can sting, but don’t let it stop you. Breathe – and keep pushing.
I decided I’d use Lawrence as an example to my non-black mama-friends who’ve been blowing up my phone up asking how they can teach their little ones to be more tolerant, open minded and kind-hearted. At the end of the day, what mom wants their precious little boy or girl to grow up and be a LinkedIn cyber-bully calling strangers names on a professional networking platform? I know I don’t.
"No child is too young to begin lessons on acceptance."
Let’s start at the very beginning. No child is too young to begin lessons on acceptance. Surround your children with dolls, superheroes, books and visual aids that include characters from different races, genders, ability levels and more. This demonstrates that just because one is different doesn’t equate to less than or threatening.
If you look around your inner circle and everyone looks the same, most likely your child is also gaining limited exposure and that can have long term negative effects. Be mindful of who your child is spending time with and strategically place him/her in activities where they can interact with children of different backgrounds. This allows them to get comfortable playing with people that are different from them so that as they grow and mature it will be second nature. The danger of having a monotonous social group is it can be a breeding ground for ignorance. If everyone looks, thinks and acts the same, it is harder for bad behavior to be recognized and gracefully corrected before it spirals out of control.
"Be prepared to visit your little one's school a few times..."
Next, do your homework! My mother went to great lengths to ensure that me and my two siblings had a well-rounded education on history. We grew up learning the history taught in American schools, but at home we had more lessons on African American history, Asian history, Latin American history, the holocaust, and more. She sought out books, TV series, and other educational tools to ensure that we weren’t only learning what the conquerors wrote but getting a fuller, more accurate picture. Be prepared to visit your little one’s school a few times to dish out historical facts to teachers. You’ll be amazed at the limited American educators’ knowledge if they don’t proactively seek out the full history lessons they teach.
We’re marching and protesting for new laws to hold peace officers accountable, but the core issue is changing a nation’s heart – that starts at home. It’s uncomfortable realizing you have biases – don’t be ashamed because we all have them. Get an accountability partner – someone invested in your growth and racial education. This doesn’t make you a racist – it shows you’re serious about evolving into a more accepting and well-rounded person. You’re modeling to your children what it takes to bring about real change and they will begin to do the same.
"Changing a nation's heart - that starts at home."
Finally, don’t be ashamed to come directly to the community you’re wanting to learn about. I’m always happy discuss my culture and history and learn more about yours. I’m a not-so-closeted history nerd. This is a sad time for African Americans. We are tired and angry, but the beauty of our people is we always persevere. It’s my prayer that we are all more open minded, kinder, and see our differences as a superpower rather than a threat.