It is with great sadness that we have watched events unfold across the Country in recent weeks. Communities that have already been devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak have now experienced severe unrest and further division. Our hearts are heavy for those who have lost their lives and the innocent bi-standers that have been adversely affected.
Today, as ever, we are grateful to be in Tahoe. Our community has seen a number of very peaceful protests, some attended by former and current Club members, and the majority of our community stands united in support of positive change. However, we would be naive to think that racism doesn’t exist in Tahoe, and it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that everyone in our community has equal opportunities and is treated as an equally valued member of our society.
Children are born without prejudice. Studies have shown that pre-schoolers and younger never discriminate against other children based on the color of their skin. However, once children hit school age, they start to exhibit behaviors consistent with prejudices. These beliefs are not their own. They come from what they hear, observe or are taught. It is natural for children to acknowledge differences in how they look and perhaps even cultural differences related to religion, clothing or food choices. What is unnatural is to equate those differences to someone being inferior to them, or to group peers together based on their race rather than their individual personality and behaviors.
These biases or prejudices are not just limited to racism. Children discriminate against peers who are overweight, LGBTQ, have learning difficulties or special needs, or who are of the opposite gender. These attitudes are learned. And that is not to say that all beliefs start in the home. Children are equally affected by their friends, the media they consume and the environment they live in. But what we can all do as parents, teachers, mentors and youth leaders is to monitor our own behaviors to ensure that we do not pass on any biases that we hold, and to create an environment and culture where our children are encouraged to treat everyone as individuals and equals.
Here at the Club we pride ourselves on being a melting pot for children from all schools, all races, all cultures, all religions, all sexual orientations, all sizes and all backgrounds. In our Club mantra we explicitly state ‘everybody is equal’ and that we are ‘welcoming to all’. We work hard to live by those beliefs every day and to encourage them in our members.
The protests of the last week have sparked conversations in my household over what is racism and why people have different skin colors. For younger children it is best to stick with simple facts: racism is where someone has negative attitudes and behavior towards another person based on their skin color and people have different skin color due to different quantities of melanin (pigment) in their skin. For older children, the answers and follow up questions can be more complex, and if you don’t feel comfortable answering, there are many great books and websites available to do the work for you.
Here are some recommendations of books and social media forums that challenge prejudice:
Each Kindness – Jacqueline Wilson
Something happened in our town – Cleano, Collins, Hazzard and Zivolin
You matter – Christian Robinson
Not my Idea: a book about whiteness – Anastasia Higginbotham
Stamped: racism, anti racism and you – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
This book is anti-racist – Tiffany Jewell
The conscious kid (on facebook, Instagram and twitter)
Anti racism Center (instagram and twitter)
Equal justice initiative (facebook, instagram and twitter)
The issue of prejudice is hard, and our societal problems are not going to change over night. But our children are the future, and the more that we can teach them that it is actions and behaviors that define a person, not how they look or what culture they are from, the better the future will be for everyone.