One of the reasons I became an Early Childhood Educator was to make sure self-pride got a daily endorsement. I wanted my children to know and believe they are respected, treasured and loved, regardless of their background, color or religion, and to help them enforce that same love upon their peers. However, sometimes when I think about the state that our world is in, I fear it won't do any good.
In many ways, celebrating our cultures aids in a positive self image. But the promotion of one's culture may leave others feeling like they're less important or may stir up negative stereotypes.
How can we teach people to embrace, promote and respect diversity?
1. Get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. For example, since I've started wearing my natural curls, I've come to realize my hair raises a lot of questions from people of other ethnicities. Most frequently, my co-workers question the colors I dye my hair and the styles I choose, leaving them in a sea of mystery, wondering how my hair can withstand so many changes in such a short period of time.
I respect the admiration. I welcome the attentiveness because it opens the door for clarification. Not just with my hair, but my culture as well, and can potentially change the way someone might view people who may look like me. Stereotypes and biased behaviors can be diminished and ultimately eradicated with gentle responses, because most people aren't trying to be demeaning or racist, they just don't know. And even if someone does mean you harm, they deserve to know why their way of thinking may need a revamp. In "Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America", African- American musician Daryl Davis cultivates cordial relationships with prominent Ku Klux Klan leaders, front men for neo-Nazi groups, etc., through a form of friendly persuasion in hopes of steering them from their bigotry. The movie follows Davis to LA where he delivers a lecture. He tells the audience, "Always keep the lines of communication with your antagonist open because if you're talking, you're not fighting."
2. We are called to be kind. KAE exists to remind us of this. We aren't born with hateful thoughts and behaviors, they are taught, learned and justified. Through teaching, I've discovered children have an unknown innate ability to can distinguish between good and bad people. If you give them respect, they'll give it back without hesitation. Why can't we do the same as adults? Kindness has no process or procedure. It doesn't decide who gets first priority. It just flows to every heart, providing hope when we are convinced it is gone.
Whether you are a Christian or Muslim, black or white, straight or homosexual, thinking with your heart instead of society's standards will change the world we see around us. Let's begin with ourselves and allow this change to bleed into other areas of our lives.
KAE believes in you and your power.