I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been kind of distressed by all the hateful things I see on the news, on Facebook and in the media. Is this MY world? MY country? Instead of just protesting what we don't like, we riot, maim and kill. Now we are tearing down statues that commemorate our history, for either good or bad, but rioting or tearing down the statues won't change the history. And it won't change the way we view either other today either. It just makes the hate and victimhood go on. I got to wondering what we need to do to make our world better. And I realized it begins with being a good parent.
No one living today is responsible for things that happened before they were born, or even while they were growing up. NO ONE! Everyone, however, is a product of how we grow up and the things we learned as we grew. I am a baby boomer. I am in no way responsible for chauvinistic attitudes that were the norm in previous generations. My dad, was a chauvinist. He, with some reason, expected my mom to do all the “women’s work” around the house. Partly because that’s how he was brought up and partly because he was the sole breadwinner in our family. My mother chose to be a stay at home wife once WWII was over and she no longer needed to replace men in machine shops. So perhaps my father’s expectations were not so outrageous. My husband was a chauvinist. He grew up in a household similar to mine and he expected me, even after I joined the work force to add to our family income, to continue doing all the chores he grew up thinking were for women only. I am not responsible for the society mores of the generations that came before me. What I am responsible for is the generation that comes after me.
My son is not a chauvinist. He learned long before his teenage years how to wash dishes and fix meals. He learned how to do his own laundry, including ironing his dress shirts. He learned how to replace buttons, bake a cake, make his bed, diaper a baby, care for a pet and dozens of other chores once considered women’s work. I was responsible for that. He’s a loving, generous husband today who fully supports his wife’s career. He has walked the floor at night with his crying infants, bathed them, fed them, took them shopping, to the library and the park and tucked them in at night. Not only am I responsible, at least in part, for the man my son has become, but he and I are responsible for the kind of man his son will become and the way women are regarded in generations to come.
I’m not breaking my arm patting my back over my child rearing choices – what I am doing is using this as an example to show that changes in our culture and society don’t come about overnight simply because someone decides it’s more appropriate. Changes come because of the way we teach our young. Robert E. Lee, George Washington and others were not evil men – they were the product of their time. There were, undoubtedly, some very cruel and evil men who not only supported the institution of slavery, but were inhumane in their treatment of those they considered their property. But every white man or woman today is NOT responsible for the attitudes of both good and evil men of a hundred years ago and a society they had no hand in the making of. We aren’t responsible for the way people of color were treated in the sixties either. Nor should all of us be lumped together with the zealots, white supremacists and others who continue to hold those attitudes. What we are responsible for is the society we are creating for tomorrow. For our children and our childrens’ children.
If we teach hate and intolerance, that’s what they will learn. We aren’t born bigots. We aren’t born hating others. We are taught. And that teaching has to stop. But it won’t stop because Black Lives Matter pickets and protests. It won’t stop if everyone who was born with white skin is expected to turn over everything they have to someone with black or brown skin. I realize bringing up a son who views women far differently than my husband or my father did is a lot different than bringing up children who don’t judge others by the color of their skin or the God they pray to, but it can start there. As parents we CAN change the world our children and grandchildren will live in. It won’t happen overnight, but if we teach love, tolerance and universal acceptance, it will happen.
We can’t just be color-blind, though. We have to be proactive about this. We have to talk to our kids about racial diversity. Seems like this is often even harder than talking about sex, but it’s something we need to do. We need to make sure our children have the opportunity to meet and make friends with others of other cultures and skin color. It might mean going out of our way, but if that’s what it takes, then it’s imperative. It would have been a lot easier and quicker for me to sew that button on my son’s shirt or iron it for him than to patiently teach him how to do it and to be willing to praise his imperfect efforts and encourage him to keep trying, but he would never have learned if I hadn’t taken the time or gone out of my way to make it happen. Travel is a great way to experience other cultures and ways of living. If you don’t live where daily interaction is possible, then travel. Visit places where your children will have opportunities.
And most of all, we have to teach love and respect. Love and respect for all mankind. Not just for those of a different color, but of a different faith, or ethnic background. If you want the world to be different in 25 or 50 years, start now helping your children to grow up with a new way of looking at the world they live in. This goes for parents of black children just as much as for those of white. If you teach your child they are a victim and fill them with resentment, that’s how they will grow up. Teach them instead to be proud of who they are and to believe they can be anything they want. Teach them that all white children, and all white people are not racist.
I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that showed a sign in front of a church that read, “Love everyone, I’ll sort them out later. Signed God.” But that’s not right either. God created all of us in our rainbow of colors. He won’t be sorting anyone because He loves us all equally. For Christians – if you would be Christ in this troubled world, let’s start by loving everyone and teaching our children too.