Be sure to read Part One: Awareness and Part Three: Three Reasons You Must Discuss Racism and Inequality with your Children in this three part series that addresses our assumptions, our reactions to prejudice and our identities.
Part Two: Five Things You Can Do To Address Diversity
At some point, we will all find ourselves in an awkward moment. Whether awkward because of our own discomfort, or awkward because of our perception of someone else’s discomfort, what do you do? Here are five suggestions that will help you address diversity.
When a child says or does something embarrassing or inappropriate, do not scold them to be quiet. Hushing sends the message that diversity, these differences that this child naively pointed out, they aren’t to be discussed. Is that what we want? Perhaps maybe we didn’t want the “Eeegads, that kid said what?” moment, but shaming curiosity? Instead, make it a teachable moment. Flush out the falsities. Examine the truth. Help the child understand what is appropriate and what is true.
Find your voice.
So many people stay in silence about diversity because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Around issues of diversity, discussions can be emotional. Be considerate that another person may experience the same circumstances in a totally different way, based on their identity, their lifestyle, their exposure to diversity. Sometimes the things people say are ignorant and hurtful. But sometimes they are just absent minded. Stay true to your intentions, and honest with yourself, with your experience, and your integrity in your response. Choose when to have discussions and when to walk away. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, for its individuality, for its inclusion, for its diversity.
Attempting to explain diversity can be challenging. The typical response is “Just remember, everybody’s equal.” But really, what does equal mean? If equal meant we were all the same, then why do people look different? Why do they speak different languages? Why aren’t we all treated the same? If you’re addressing a small child, or a group of professionals in your field, be explicit. Discuss inequality. Examine the definitions and the word choices. Avoid making sweeping statements that generalize and assume under all conditions that something is an absolute truth. Be as clear and explicit as possible.
If you don’t know, ask. Why is that the case? What does that mean? Why do you do that? How is that different from me? Our minds often fill in the blanks with assumptions about what might be the case, especially when we don’t quite understand something, this is where judgement originates. The most important part of instilling curiosity is to be aware and present to any judgement. Curiosity and judgement exist in the same niche of human processing. While it is always important to discern your understanding and experience, it is just as important to stay free of false judgment.
Celebrate our differences.
Often we try so hard to fit in, to follow the trends, to have the right look, to not stand out. And while there is something to be said for unity, it is also just as important to celebrate our individuality. Explore new lifestyles and cultures. Develop a rich understanding of differences. Allow it to be alright to not know, and always be willing. Be aware that our assumptions might be inaccurate, that all we thought we knew can be questioned, and to start again with a new day. Celebrate it all.
Resources for further consideration:
Martin Luther King–I Have a Dream Speech
NurtureShock–Chapter 3–Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race
Are We Born Racist? New Insights From Neuroscience and Positive Psychology
People of Color Conference
Science of the Greater Good–Resources