A Lesson on Diversity

February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the many contributions of African-Americans and a time to celebrate the African-American culture. Our communities are becoming more and more diverse every day, so it’s extremely important that our children are taught to embrace differences in race, culture, and religion. This will help the child in all aspects of his or her life: professional, academic, and social.

Oftentimes, young people are told that we are all the same. However, we really are not the same. And that is what makes this world interesting and educational. When you are operating under the belief that everyone is the same, the human tendency is to compare everybody else to ourselves. And if there are distinct differences, we immediately become defensive or judgmental. Instead, we should teach our kids to look at diversity as a great learning opportunity that will broaden their perspectives and move them beyond their own family traditions.

When my kids were growing up, our family spent a lot of time with the families of three close friends of Hispanic, Asian and African-American heritages. We all learned from each other by sharing cultural traditions, recipes and beliefs. It was a great experience for my kids and me.

Home is the first place where kids learn habits, routines, values and beliefs. So parents should set an example for their children. Show that you value diversity in your friendships and business relationships. Buy books, music, videos and toys that reflect diversity. Teach your child about the injustices of bias and discrimination. Speak up when someone makes a racist or ethnic joke, and explain to your child that those types of remarks promote cultural tensions.

The lessons you teach your children at home will spill over to their school environment and help to ease cultural tensions, prejudice, violence and bullying among students. Let them know there is no such thing as a stereotypical Caucasian or African-American or Latino. Each of us is a result of our upbringing and experiences. Kids should learn to evaluate everyone individually.

Opening our eyes to other people’s belief systems or cultures doesn’t diminish what we do nor does it require that we change who we are; it just means that we have learned to appreciate how much richness there is in our world.