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Teaching Children About Racism

Reading good books with children about people who've experienced racism can be helpful because awareness of the real problem is an important first step. But solving racism requires more than healthy conversations about the truth of history.

Ending racism requires a willingness to be responsible.

Responsibility is, literally, the ability to respond. Response-ability is a habit. When this habit begins in young children, it has a chance to grow strong enough to change the world for good.

Without the habit of responsibility, simply knowing about racism will not resolve this human rights crisis. The habit of responsibility links the awareness of a problem with an action that works to resolve the problem.

Resolving racism requires real action.

We can train children to take action. We can equip them with the ability to respond, not simply react.

Changing the world for good is an invitation we all receive every day. There are many problems to be solved, even for a three-year-old.

A little girl can develop the habit of seeing the invitations to change the world for good around her. A young boy can, too.

It's our responsibility, parents, to help our children learn to both notice and respond to the world around them with appropriate care and attention.

  • For a 3-year-old, help them SEE 3 things every day.

  • For a 4-year-old, help them SEE 4 things.

  • A 5-year-old can notice 5 things...

Soon the habit of RESPONSE-ABILITY is just that--a habit.

A 10-year-old is mature enough to simply notice and give attention where it is needed, once they have developed the habit.

Some things young children can learn to notice and care about include:

  • Trash that needs to be picked up and thrown away.

  • Toys that need to be put away.

  • Towels that need to be hung up.

  • Dishes in the sink that need to be washed or put in the dishwasher, or clean dishes that need to be put away.

  • Garbage that needs to be taken out.

  • A bed that needs to be made.

  • A toilet that needs to be flushed.

  • An empty toilet paper roll that needs to be replaced.

  • A pet's water bowl that needs to be filled.

  • Chairs that need to be pushed in, under the table.

  • Floors or porches that need sweeping or vacuuming.

  • Couch pillows that need straightening.

The habit of responsibility supports healthy relationships. Responsibility builds a foundation for success as a student and an adult. And, the habit of responsibility comes with a bonus.

Growing up with the habit of responsibility helps us grow up with integrity, too.

Having integrity means we can act as our best selves in every circumstance, not just the easy ones. A person of integrity lives comfortably with responsibility because they've learned that real life comes with a purpose, not just privileges.

The human experience is fully realized when we respond to the needs around us in ways that care for and about others, not just ourselves. This is true for three-year-olds, 30-year-olds, and persons of any age.

Not only are our eyes trained to see real problems, but our hearts are also trained to care and to respond in helpful ways.

When we grow up experiencing the power of responsibility, with the strength of integrity, we are equipped to be leaders in a culture struggling with problems bigger than dirty dishes and empty toilet paper holders.

But, without the benefit of the habit of initiative that grows side-by-side with the habit of responsibility, the list of problems that need our attention grows longer.

When we grow up believing that "it's not my job" or "it's not my problem so it's not my responsibility," we grow older and more selfish, but not more mature.

Immaturity will not heal racism.

Ignorance will not heal racism. Ignorance means to ignore; to not know.

Knowledge won't heal racism, either. Knowing something is wrong doesn't mean we believe we can play a part in making it right. Knowing isn't the same thing as caring.

Ending racism starts with a willingness to be responsible. Living responsibly invites us to have an impact and influence in the world around us--for good, and nothing less.

  • Caring about my family inspires me to live responsibly in my own home.

  • Caring about my friends encourages me to protect them from harm.

  • Caring about my fellow man moves me to respond to injustice in the ways that bring real change and that build a path to equal justice for all.

If our children are going to grow up to be people who care, they first need to learn to see the world around them in a way that inspires them to live with the habit of responsibility.

I have a dream that one day children, with all different colors of skin and all different races and religions, will grow up to be adults who live as citizens who care enough to act responsibly.

When we offer children an honest childhood, we offer the world trustworthy adults.

Responsibility is a good step toward healing racism. Together, there is great hope.

Doug and I recorded a podcast episode about Privilege and Responsibility. Follow this link to listen now:


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