My son, Byron, went to a racially diverse Lutheran school in southern California from preschool through 8th grade. His first exposure to the issue of race arose when he was in kindergarten. The teacher later told me that there was a question about racial differences that came up in class one day, so they had a discussion about it. Which explains why he came home from school that day and asked me, “Mommy, what kind are you?” Baffled as to what he meant by that, I asked him, “What kind are you?” He answered, “I’m black.” He proceeded to run down the list of people we knew, asking what kind they each were. It was evident that he still didn’t understand what all this talk about black and white people meant.
It dawned on me that my and my husband’s extended family members had skin tones that ranged the spectrum from beige to dark chocolate brown. Plus, he saw our white next door neighbors, who became his surrogate grandparents, frequently. Their teenage son and daughter were occasional babysitters and often his entertainment. No wonder the kid was confused! He didn’t see people by skin color. He only knew that the world was full of people of different shades who loved and protected him. If only I could have made that innocence last!
My experience with a lifetime of diversity wasn’t by design. God blessed me with a loving and varied extended family and favorable circumstances. Not everyone is so blessed. For some, it will take more of an effort to see the benefits of diversity. A dear friend used to say that you have to be taught to hate and to judge people by skin shade, religion, ethnic background, political party, or any of the other reasons we have for hating people these days. Another friend says that you can’t hate a person once you know their story. Both are true. It takes honesty and courage to make diversity a significant part of your life, but you will not regret it. In fact, you will probably find that it enriches your life. It’s not too late to make it your New Year’s Resolution: take off a few pounds; add a few friends who don’t look like you.