We all acknowledge that kids aren’t born hating other people. So why do we teach them that it’s only natural?
With racial tensions running high here in St. Louis and across the nation, I was ready for some good news. I got it. This little video made me feel like I was right in the middle of the hugfest!
Comedian Shawn Harris took this when his son, Tyler, returned to school after being out for a week. As he says in the comments, “We can learn from our children.” So why do we teach THEM instead?
I’m no expert, but I’m an observer. And here are three factors that, if we were only aware enough to correct them, might make more school rooms look like this one. So why DO adults teach children that it’s OK to hate?
They Don’t Know Better
As unlikely as it sounds, many adults don’t realize they’re spreading hate. They’ve been around derogatory phrases so long that they seem natural, so they use them in the presence of children without thinking about how literal kids minds are. Or they use statistics to back up the cautionary measures they take with their kids, using phrases like, “I’m no racist, but…” But, they are.
Many adults aren’t aware that they’re teaching their children that “different” comes with a warning label. But that doesn’t keep the kids from learning it.
They Need to Believe in Their World View
We all feel safer when our world view is justified. And we’ll go to amazing lengths to feel safe. If we need to believe that our religion makes us superior, then we’ll latch on to any source that says that another religion’s followers are evil. If we’ve been taught that our privileges are dependent on the color of our skin, then we’ll desperately point to examples of people of other races behaving in a fashion that says they don’t deserve those privileges. Most of us hold fast to any statistic, news story, or personal experience that supports our world view, and we pass that on to our children. Because we need our children’s approval almost as much (and maybe more) than they need ours.
They’re Masking Their Insecurity and Fear
I’ve read the hateful comments about the whites and the blacks, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the officers and the civilians. Sometimes it reads like a list of kindergarten taunts. One comment on Facebook even ended with, “So there!”
Bullying and taunting come from fear, a need to prove you’re right. And that’s what we pass on to kids too. That being right, being powerful, being able to intimidate another person somehow makes you bigger, makes you better, makes you worth more than anyone else. When kids learn that they can feel less afraid by intimidating someone else they naturally look for someone to bully. And they naturally look for people to take their side. Thus the division between the races, the religions, and the genders begins.
Do you want to see more classrooms like Tyler’s? Where a child returning to school is welcomed with open arms by his classmates?
Yeah, me too. But that will mean all of us being more aware, being willing to challenge the world view we inherited from the previous generations, and being confident enough to take a stand for all people, not just people like us.
Photo: Youtube/Shawn Harris