Preschoolers should teach us a lesson about racism. I believe they have helped me to understand race relations and I always try and go back to that child-like innocence when the racial divide in this country bogs me down.
If you haven’t noticed, we are still entrenched in racism based on the media stories that are drawing up the most attention. It is as if we cannot get past the old wounds. Someone once told me that we are shaped by our upbringing and our world-view in how we deal with race. I believe that is true. However in my years of teaching I have never met a racist preschooler. I have however met some curious children who ask lots of questions such as, “Why is the color of your skin without color?” “How come your hair looks like that?” “How come I can see the veins through your skin?”
Curiosity is a wonderful thing and children are full of questions especially when you look different from the family they are born into. My answer is always, “Well, this is just the way God made me.” The preschooler is usually satisfied with my answer and moves on to play or classroom activities. Sometimes I wonder why we as a society just can’t move on the same way.
Of course, I realize that race in this country goes deeper than just the color of one’s skin. As a child we learn to see the differences and appreciate one another, but as we grow up we are molded and shaped by the perspective of those around us. Sometimes it is important to realize that we are too defined by our world-view. If only we could realize that all the hurts and injustices we feel tend to influence the children around us. As those children grow up, race becomes much more than the unique color of one’s skin and a cycle of race relations is perpetuated, usually in a negative way. That child-like innocence is lost as we grow up and begin to categorize people based on color, with our world-view becoming smaller and more defined.
Many of us spend our whole life fighting to make sure our children do not experience racism, yet what I have learned is it’s the youngest ones that have the correct world perspective; it is the adults who categorize their world using race as a factor.
As a teacher and a mother I want the children around me to be curious and see the beauty in how unique God made all of us. Maybe it is inevitable that no matter how hard we try in this country, our perspective will always be shaped by race and the injustices we have felt based on the color of our skin. However, as we continue to deal with that word “racism” I am going to go back to preschool, where life is simple and I stand out because I am uniquely made by God, not because I am a white woman in a race-defined world.