On Saturday, my grandson was invited to the birthday/halloween party of one of his classmates. Since I had never met Julianna's parents I wasn't sure what to expect.
What I discovered was Julianna's mother is black and her father is of Latin descent. The children who came to the party were from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and it was a beautiful sight to see.
For a three-hour period, the adults watched as their children played and shared without prejudice. For that moment in time no one saw race as an issue. Even the parents were laughing and joking with each other.
By the time children get to elementary school, they are aware of differences and some have already developed prejudices against people who are different because of the adults around them.
There are simple ways that parents and baby boomer grandparents can help their children and grandchildren understand differences in people and be tolerant of these differences:
Show that you value diversity through your friendships and business relationships. What you do is as important as what you say.
Make and enforce a firm rule that a person's ethnic background is never an acceptable reason for teasing or rejecting someone.
Provide opportunities for your children to interact with others who are racially or culturally different and with people who have disabilities. Look for opportunities in the neighborhood, school, after-school and weekend programs, church, camps, concerts, and other community events.
Respectfully listen to and answer your child's questions about people's differences. If you ignore questions, change the subject, sidestep, or scold your child for asking, you may suggest that the subject is bad or inappropriate.
Teach you child ways to think objectively about bias and discrimination and to witness against these injustices. Set an example by your own actions.
I will be having my own party on November 2 and have invited a diverse group of people to attend. I wonder if they will choose to show up or allow their own prejudices to hold them back.