A “melting pot” suggests that we gradually lose our unique identity as we blend with others, creating this alloy – this glob – of humanity. Instead, we prefer to be carrots living alongside cucumbers and tomatoes and radishes – each of us retaining our unique look and flavor, yet coming together to celebrate the power and beauty of the whole. Make any sense? In other words, each individual is our neighbor, especially as our world shrinks and we assimilate others into our culture.
Respecting our differences
How can we as parents teach our children to be the best carrots they can be and also respect the look and smell and flavor of an olive? We are a peculiar species. We are resilient and adaptable. We can adjust to changing circumstances almost instantly. On the other hand, we seem to be more comfortable around people who look, talk and act like us. It’s easier to make friends with others like us. Is that truly natural behavior? Or have we been taught what’s natural and what’s not?
We are what we see, hear
How can we parents teach our kids to accept one another’s humanity while retaining our differences? Somewhere along the line as we grow, many of us are drawn apart by our differences. We can only attribute that to what parents teach and model to their children. How do you explain two 3 year olds – one white, one black – playing and laughing together. There is only joy in that scenario. There is no suspicion, no distrust, no rejection for any reason. Yet, those factors emerge as the two children grow older, until one day they retreat to the comfort of “their own kind.” They have learned that behavior from someone.
Realizing our capacity
In a speech to students at American University in Washington, D.C., in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” If he were alive today, he would be disappointed in how far we have not come in that regard.
We honestly believe we must start with the very young. Parents, teach your kids to look for the good in others. Help them recognize the gifts that people of all creeds and colors bring to the tossed salad. Show them how to examine the content of one’s character rather than be distracted by the color of one’s skin. As human beings, we have far greater capacity. We must find it.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.