When my kids were younger, my wife used to go to the grocery store with our three toddlers. She would often joke that the cashier would give her a “certain look.” A look that she felt said . . . “You need to choose a man!” Now, why would she say that?
Well because we have three different shades of niños: White, brown, and browner. No, seriously . . . Our oldest came into this world white as snow. Our second came into this world as mocha as they come. And our youngest, we adopted from Korea. Three kids. All ours. But who all look extremely different.
When we lived in Los Angeles, it was just normal. Nothing to look at. Nothing to note. But when we moved to the south, things changed for us. Not blatant racism. No, we were just suddenly “noticed” more often than not.
But even then, I’ll never forget this particular Thursday afternoon when I was taking my two daughters from suburbia to downtown Atlanta to go to Piedmont Park. It was a beautiful day outside, and I was excited to show them some city life.
We actually took the MARTA train from the burbs to the city. We were about three stops from our final destination when I noticed my oldest acting a little weird. “What’s wrong baby?” I asked.
“Daddy. All these people. These are the people we are supposed to be scared of,” she responded. And by “these people” she meant the black people.
“Ummmm. Baby. Who told you that? That’s silly.”
“My friends at lunch. They said that the people downtown are scary.” I swear my jaw was hanging wide open. That’s when I said something that would make her balk.
“Baby. Can you look at the color of my skin and the color of your sister’s skin? We are the same color as these people.” And just as I had thought, her own dropped wide open. She hadn’t even realized we were a different shade than her.
“Are you scared of us?” I asked her.
“No daddy.” she laughed. “That’s silly.”
And so began my immediate climb up diversity mountain as a family, and WE WERE THE MOST DIVERSE FAMILY IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! We decided to start being more intentional about stepping out of our comfort zone to make sure that our kids were not getting overly-suburbanized or becoming uncomfortable with diversity. Here are five ways:
1. Visit the inner city once a week. We still do this even as they are teens now.
2. Choose friends who do not all look the same. This leads to my kids having friends that don’t look the same either.
3. Travel. Travel. Travel. I know this isn’t an option for some people. But the more you can travel with your kids, the more diversity they see.
4. Talk about our differences. We regularly tell our kids that they are not mini versions of us and that we want them to grow up with their own opinions of the world. So we have conversations regularly that encourage this.
5. Make sure Sunday looks like heaven. When choosing a church, always look for a church that looks like heaven. Meaning that the people in it don’t just look like you. Now I know that this is not always possible, but make try attending a church with a different expression of worship every so often.
All of these are simple ideas that my family has used to make sure we get comfortable with people that aren’t just like us. When we do this, we get a much better understanding of our Creator and the love that He pours out for us all, no matter our background or the color of our skin.