A song in the musical “South Pacific” makes a powerful statement about racism, “You’ve Got to Be Taught.” The overall message is that children are not born with racial hatred or even bias, it is something that is taught by parents and elders. In my opinion, this is absolutely true. Growing up as a white child in suburban America, I remember being sheltered from racism. My upbringing was by no means homogenous. I had friends and playmates of different races and religions. I didn’t think anything of it. I can actually remember learning about racism. I remember thinking that the idea of hating someone based on skin color was ridiculous. My view has evolved but hasn’t changed that much fundamentally.
If people don’t teach their children that people of other races should be hated, chances are their children will not grow up hating people of different races. That is true. However, does that mean we shouldn’t talk about racism to our children? My problem was that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that my friends who weren’t white weren’t growing up with the same privileges that I had.
White Americans have the privilege of raising their families in a society where their culture was treated as the standard and still is. People of color have their culture treated as alien and separate. Words like “colorful” and “exotic” to describe everyday Americans simply because they are not white. This overall exotification of different cultures within our countries does affect both white people and people of color in very dramatic ways.
So, talk to your children about racism. If your family is white, teach your children that not everyone will be like them. Help them understand that hatred based on race is still a very real thing that their friends can face on a daily basis. Make sure they know that racism is not something that is confined to the past, or two-dimensional villains on TV dramas. Make sure they understand that it is something that we all face, and that we all can have a hand in helping make better.
— Becca Morrison