I met a neighbor one day while out for a walk. She was walking her dog, I was pushing my son in his stroller. We made polite small talk and, towards the end of our conversation, she made a negative comment about an older, Indian woman who lives nearby.
My neighbor and I are both white, which is probably why she felt comfortable criticizing this woman’s culture even though we’d met less than 5 minutes before. I made a weak attempt to kindly correct my neighbor and walked home.
I am disappointed in myself because I know better. My response did very little to point out or correct my neighbor’s prejudice towards our Indian neighbor. But I’m especially disappointed because my husband, my in-laws, and my son are Indian, too. We all have reason to be concerned about prejudice in our neighborhoods (and beyond) no matter what our families look like. But now that I’m a part of a multicultural family, I feel especially responsible. At one year old, my son was too young to understand our neighbor’s criticism of his family’s culture, but he won’t be too young for long.
How do you teach toddlers to value diversity?
In the spirit of the New Year and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here are 5 resolutions I’m making to celebrate diversity in 2018:
- Stock the playroom with books and toys that show all kinds of people in positive ways. It’s important that kids see themselves AND kids who are different from them represented in their toys and as main characters in books. Some helpful search terms if you are looking online: multicultural toys, diverse toys, everyday diversity books.
- Stock my shelves with books, movies, and music by diverse authors and artists so that my son sees us learning and talking about other people’s experiences. This year, we also bought a nativity scene with figurines that have different skin tones and hung pictures in our house that feature our family’s cultures.
- Show interest in others and their experiences. Pay attention the next time you’re at the grocery store or making small talk with a neighbor. Do you start conversations with those who appear different from you as often as those who seem most like you? Do you show interest in your differences?
- Check my own prejudices. This is hard but important–our children learn from us first! Take an Implicit Association test and visit Teaching Tolerance or Understanding Prejudice.
- Seek out new cultural experiences around Atlanta. To name a few: The Nuevolution! Exhibit is open at the Atlanta History Center, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta has MLK programming and cultural events throughout the year (Chinese New Year is coming up soon!), and most county library websites will let you search their event calendars for cultural events (like the Small, Small World art class for toddlers in John’s Creek).
How do you celebrate diversity in your family? What resolutions will you make in 2018?