It’s Friday night in our home. This means we spend 30 minutes fighting over what movie we’re going to watch. My kids are 11 and 9 years old. Finding a movie we can all watch that’s both entertaining and not riddled with the f-bomb every five seconds has become a serious challenge.
So Jay (the hubs) turned on The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind without asking for anyone’s opinion. Sometimes it’s better that way. My mom recommended it a few weeks ago, and we’ve been trying to get the kids to watch it ever since.
But we kept getting the “that looks boring” mantra. Jay made an executive decision. “We’re watching this movie. Get over it.”
They whined and complained and then settled down as they fell into the story as a boy in a very poor African country dealt with the trials of his family and community. He was a smart and inventive kid who found the right people to help him when he needed it.
This story is a drama, and it’s sad and heavy. Really heavy. The kids, especially Lula, wanted to quit watching several times, but we insisted we keep going. It’s good for them to see un-cushy lives unlike their own.
How to Raise Globally-Minded Children
And we do have a cushy life. I’m not gonna lie and try to act like we don’t. Because we have a pretty nice life with all the American dream things well intact, Jay and I have tried as best we can to instill a sense of justice and equality and kindness and compassion towards every human being in the kids since they’ve been alive.
We’ve never hesitated to put stories, pictures, toys, books, and as much as possible, people in front of them who are different colors and from different backgrounds and cultures.
They grew up in a very homogenous smallish city in middle America. So trust me, this was not the easiest accomplishment! We had to make an effort. And we did, with our fingers crossed that it would stick and make a difference in their mindsets.
Kids are not Born with Prejudice
I think it did. When Lula started kindergarten, she came home telling us about her new best friend. Later we found out this girl had a white mother and black father. Maybe it sounds ridiculous to you, but we were so happy. Because there was absolutely no hesitation from Lula. It didn’t register for one second in her brain that this child might be “different” in any way, shape, or form.
They were best friends for several years until Lula switched schools. This family was also from a different socioeconomic status, but that didn’t stop us from connecting with the family. A sign that what we were teaching Lula… or NOT teaching her… was sticking.
It was also a sign to us that kids are not born with these prejudices and biases. They are absolutely taught. The little things we say influence their ideas, feelings, perceptions of others.
Like Salsa and Peanut Butter
We are not perfect parents. It makes me laugh to even write that. On so many levels, I fail. OK… not fail. I refuse to believe I fail, but there are parts of my personality that are not compatible with raising kids. Like peanut butter and salsa. Not a good combo. I do my best and I love my kids more than anything else in the world and I make sure they know it.
However, this thing. This big thing that is in all our faces right now is one issue that I was determined to instill in my kids. (This and to love God with all their hearts… personally I think the two go hand and hand. You can’t love God and hate people. Any people. Just a little sermon side note.)
Because we lived in a homogenous city for many years of their young lives, we had to work a little harder to make that happen.
Maybe I’m Naive, But It’s Not That Hard!
But it wasn’t THAT hard. And I think that’s what I’m trying to get to here. It’s NOT hard. All the dialogue right now is so deep and makes it sound like we really need to work hard to make these big changes. I’m not saying for adults that isn’t true. For societal norms to change, yes, SO much work needs to be done. Don’t misunderstand me. I get that. Honestly I’m not sure what that’s going to look like. There’s so much anger and corruption and hatred and injustice it’s hard to know what and where and how to fight.
If we look at our children though, it’s really not hard. I think it’s going to have to start with them. We’re laying the groundwork now. Which means we may not see serious change for a couple decades while these new citizens being raised with better cultural awareness grow up.
So what exactly did that look like as I raised my two little citizens? It looked like children’s books that featured people of all skin colors. Books that featured stories from other cultures from all over the world with discussions about how other people live and histories they’ve been through. We didn’t focus on differences, but when they came up, we discussed them with positivity with phrases like “that’s how they do it there.” Or “people in other countries or other cultures have a different way of living than us. Isn’t that cool?” Those are really cheesy examples, but you get my point. We embraced the differences and celebrated them instead of looking on them as weird or lesser than the way we did things.
Every Human Being is Worthy
Because here’s the thing… we’re equal in one sense. We’re equal in the fact that every human being is important, is unique, is significant, is worthy to be loved and respected and protected. We are all equal in those things. But because of that uniqueness, we all have different stories and different ways of doing things. And that’s awesome! That’s exciting and fun and interesting and sometimes heartbreaking.
So back to the movie Friday night. The hardships were breaking all of our hearts. It wasn’t easy to watch. But it was also a beautiful story of perseverance.
While we were watching, I was noticing how beautiful the mother in the story was. (Actress Aïssa Maïga) She had the most beautiful skin. (Something I always pay attention to because I have terrible skin that still suffers from acne. Bleh. So a smooth complexion is high on my envy radar.) Anyway, I made a brief statement out loud, “Her skin is so beautiful.” And Diesel, my sweet, aesthetically-aware 9-year-old replied, “Yes it is!”
That was it. A super simple exchange that let me know he did not care about the color of her skin as an indicator of race or difference or any of those negative things. He only saw it’s beauty. Oh how I hope that never changes. If it does, I will not be the cause of it.
Then Lula responded, “Oooo! Do you have a crush on her?” in the way only an 11-year-old can annoyingly tease her little brother. Again though, the idea that he might have a crush on someone with a darker skin color was a completely legit and acceptable idea. It made my heart swell with thankfulness. Not at what I had done or tried to do, but at the ease with which they accepted people without question. Without hesitation. If every single person lived that way, thought that way, had that expectation, think of all the problems we could erase.
It’s Up to You
Mom or Dad, it’s up to you to raise this next generation in such a way that the issues we’re seeing today, literally today, are eradicated. It’s not hard. Talk about “others” with the sense of equality you want to see. Don’t make a big deal out of it. I think that highlights the issues instead of highlighting the solution, which is a mindset that we’re all equally worthy of having the same opportunities, the same respect, the same love.
God Made Us Different AND Loves Us Each the Same
One thing that came to me recently is that God loves each and every one of us equally even though He created us so different… on purpose! He sees our uniquenesses because He created them, and He loves us the same.
When my kids complain about another kid, “That kid is so weird.” Or “That kid is so annoying.” Or even so far as, “I hate that kid because…” I point out that we’re not going to get along with everyone we meet. And that’s OK. BUT BUT BUT I say to them, “God loves that annoying kid just as much as He loves you. God created that kid with that personality. Maybe you don’t have to be friends with him or her if you don’t get along well, but you do need to respect that kid as a person and treat them the way you want to be treated.”
What Could Changes Look Like in the Future?
I’m so thankful that we’ve had the opportunity to live in a country for the last two years that is just about as diverse as it gets. Singapore has done its best to create a society where every race, culture, and religion is celebrated and honored. This came about due to serious racial tensions in the 1960s that led to riots and killings. The government stepped in and did something about it.
Now it’s one of the safest places on earth. It’s not perfect. Nowhere and nothing is perfect and never will be. But this country is committed to creating a safe place for everyone.
That means they’ve had to be more controlling than Americans would like or put up with. Because people just can’t seem to make it happen on their own. But I hope that will change in America. People are so tired of the whole thing. Finally. It’s long overdue. Our kids are not going to have the same worldview that we grew up with. I’m so thankful.
Hope For the Next Generation
My kids have had the opportunity to live in a society and go to a school where every individual is respected. This was something I wanted for them from the time they were born.
We’re returning to the US in a couple of months, and I’m honestly terrified about what they’re returning to. I’m also thankful that they get to be a part of the next generation because I know they’re going to make a difference. They already are.
Lula was forwarding petitions around to family and friends and watching news and videos on YouTube about the protests and listening to Black voices. That’s not something we’ve pushed on them at all. It’s the dialogue and conversation that’s going on amongst 11-year-olds. That’s pretty cool to see.
From the Mouth of Babes
Because we were watching The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which had all Black faces, Diesel must’ve been thinking about the George Floyd protests. Suddenly he sat up and said, “You know what they need to do? Every policeman should be given a test before they’re allowed to be a policeman. They should be put in a situation where they have to react to four different people: a white woman, a white man, a black woman, a black man. If they treat all four people exactly the same, then they can become a policeman.”
From the mouth of babes.
Racism Isn’t a Gene
Racism isn’t a gene. Prejudice isn’t a gene. Sexism isn’t a gene. Bias isn’t a gene. It’s taught. So what are you teaching in your home?
Am I dumbing this huge issue down? Maybe I am. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about and you think I’m naive and sheltered. But I see and hear my children. I see their response to others. The ease they accept people with, and I know I’m not completely unrealistic or living some pipe dream.
A Boy’s Response
Diesel was so convicted and moved by George Floyd’s story that he wrote a rap about it. His sister helped him with a couple of lines, but other than that, he wrote this on his own. Jay laid down a loop behind it, which Diesel didn’t even want to do. He said he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it but just wanted to get this message out to people. He thinks that this rap could change people’s minds… even change the world. So we helped him make that happen and are helping him get his message out.
We firmly believe that good, honest police officers far outweigh the bad ones. We also are not very political people and are not trying to make any kind of political statement here. We believe in the worthiness of every human being, and we believe that our children are the voice of the future who are not waiting to make their voices heard.
So with all those disclaimers, here is Diesel’s rap.