This post is courtesy of Scarlett Abraham Clarke, Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion at Bright Horizons.
Imagine your child is learning a foreign language.
It’s something you’ve always wanted for them, because you know it’s important and because it’s a skill you believe in, that you didn’t grow up with – but that you wish you did.
So you send your child to learn this new, very important language.
But there’s a problem – you don’t speak it routinely. It isn’t part of your child’s home, their experiences, their everyday life. So outside of class, it gets put on a shelf. It never gets used, it’s brought up occasionally around an event – say an encounter with a foreign speaker. But otherwise, it’s just something you gave your child, that they know.
How likely is it that the language will become part of your child?
In the absence of speaking it all the time; not very. This is the challenge of how we teach children about inclusion. We want them to have this knowledge, these beliefs. Our hearts on the matter are unequivocal. But too often, we only tell them what we think. There’s no context for the information. Our very good intentions are not embedded in how they live; rather they’re lost in environments that don’t reflect what we’re teaching. There’s no support through everyday interactions; there are no relevant toys, dolls, storybooks, or people. It’s all just conceptual.
Then inclusion is just something we tell children about, but don’t live. It’s something that exists out there; a language that they – we all – take out and remember when blatant injustices occur.
But raising children who are inclusive and anti-racist at their very cores takes more than that. Raising children who breathe inclusivity requires intention, not just in what we tell them, but in what they’re exposed to; what they’re learning; how their world outside matches up with the world we tell them about. It’s when these lessons are built in that they become part of children; part of who they are.
As early educators, we know how important this is. Parents are hungry for information -- about how to raise inclusive kids who stand against racism. It’s why I’ll be participating with our Bright Horizons Early Education team in our virtual panel – Raising Anti-Racist Kids: What to Say and Do. I invite you to come with your questions, thoughts, and hopes for the next generation.
When I talk about this, it isn’t just Scarlett, senior director of Diversity & Inclusion talking. It’s Scarlett, mother of two children who are not white. It’s Scarlett, who’s part of a melting-pot family of Black people, white people, Haitians, Brazilians, and more. It’s Scarlett, who wants an inclusive world for my children. I want them to be part of – and benefit from -- the change. I’m surrounded by people who want the same thing. We all want to figure out how to impart these important messages so they stick; to ensure our children are part of a better, more accepting world than the one we grew up in; to build these important lessons into who they become.
How we do that comes down not to just what we say. It’s also who we interact with. It’s how we engage. It’s making people of different colors part of our everyday lives.
We have to be intentional; to talk and act this language all the time.
Only then will we all truly teach the lessons about racism.