Monday, May 31, 2010

Let's talk about diversity


A while ago, I read an article in the NY Times which I now can't find. I can find this, which is an amusing, but simplified version. Basically, the article talks about children's inherent tendency to prefer people who look and act like them and how it is our jobs adults to teach them differently, just like we teach them not to hit, and not to pick their noses.
There is a fair amount of the advice that I agree with. My generation was taught to ignore skin color and it turns out that doesn't lead to a more inclusive attitude. If you don't explain to your kids why people different skin color, they will assume negative connotations.
It also mentioned how African American children are less likely to make negative assumptions about people of other races. This was attributed to the fact that they get very strong messages to be proud of their own ethnicity. What really bothered me was the following sentence, "Of course, this lesson cannot translate to the general population, because you cannot teach kids 'White Pride'."
Well, of course we shouldn't go out and join the Ku Klux Klan, or any other separatist organization. But I'm not just 'white'. My ancestors are from Denmark, Norway, The British Isles and Germany. My father's father was Jewish. Walker is descended from some of the first Protestants that landed in this country. One of them wrote religious tracks that are still for sale at Amazon. We shouldn't be proud of being part of a broadly lumped together group of people who happen to share a certain range of skin tones, but we can be proud of our specific history.
It all got me thinking, and worrying, about the racial diversity in our lives currently. We live in a very white suburb of a very white city. Most of the people we see look generally like us. I firmly believe it's important to make sure our world is as inclusive as possible. My elementary school was in the city's African American neighborhood until I was in 5th grade, and most of my classmates looked different from me. I don't remember the teachers talking about what race was, but I do remember talking to my friends about the differences between us. If I'm committed to raising a child who believes in racial equality, then how far am I willing to drive for say, swim lessons, so we have a chance at having more then one or two kids of color in our lives?
But then I thought, it's not just about racial diversity, is it? Prejudice has many forms in our society, homophobia, ageism, sexism... I wonder how much a sense of comfort with one kind of difference spills over into the others. My guess is a lot. Once you start looking past one superficial difference, it's easier to see past the rest of them. We may not have much racial diversity in our lives, but we have a lot of other kinds of diversity. Until this last week, both of my grandmothers were still alive, and because of that, Moira is exposed to the very elderly. We know a couple of people who were not born the gender they are now living as, and others who just like to fool around with the differences between the sexes. We have loved ones who are lesbians, and bisexuals. We know families in all sorts of configurations. Yes, most of the people in our lives conform to the societal standard of white, straight men and women, but our lives have a great diversity, and I relish the differences.
I've been pointing those differences out to Moira already. Before she starts asking.

Mombian is hosting the 5th annual Blogging for LGBT Families day. If you have something to say, fill out the form by tomorrow when she will post a big round up.

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