Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts from the Inside

So it came to my attention last May that my kids attend an "inner city" school. Honestly, I had never given it any thought, and didn't realize it bore that label. I do like my kids' school, as far as public schools go. I hate the system, but that is another story for another day.

Anyway...certainly people shy away from inner city schools, which I guess is understandable. That label brings words like danger, violence, metal detectors, unsafe, & drugs, to my mind. We haven't experienced those things. Just the same, I might feel differently in a different place. In this place, I do not feel threatened. It actaully worked in our favor. People don't flock to this school for the Governor's Pre-k program like they do to the nice, new facility out west. As a result, Braylen got accepted to the program, where he probably wouldn't have if there had been high numbers and a waiting list. Their loss. Our gain!

One thing that an inner city tends to offer that is unique in our part of the country is cultural diversity. Like a Colors of Benetton ad, my kids' classrooms are, well colorful. Personally, I like this. I want our kids to know that everyone doesn't look like us, and that is good and normal. Until recently, I was pretty sure my kids didn't even notice the differences. They were color blind. But a couple of conversations with Braylen recently shed some light on this subject and it seems worth sharing. He was talking about school and I asked who he played with. He said a few names and then"Tyrus" who is a friend he mentions often. What he said next caught me off guard. Thoughtfully Braylen said, "Tyrus...he has a brown face". I just said "yes." and he moved right on chattering about his day.

On another day in my store, Braylen brought me a toy that we sell at Cutie Tooties.

The carrot has a tag with the picture below on it.

The tag explains that the carrot is made as a part of the 13 villages project. Here's the blurb:

The '13 Villages Project' is a campaign co-conducted by Under the Nile and its Farm in Egypt (Sekem). It takes place in 13 rural villages in Sharkeya, Egypt. Through vocational training and infrastructural development, the project is improving the health, skills and overall well being of the village inhabitants. We provide excellent health care as well as education on dental and over all physical health. We begin by educating the villagers on how to make our fruit and vegetable toys. Each village receives an advance for their work and the materials needed to produce that toy. Upon completion, we pick up the finished goods and pay them fair wages for their work. We are very excited to see the end result. Happy, educated, and healthy human beings.
***Back to the story***
Braylen hands it to me and says, "Look Mom. It's Miss Saimah's picture". Well, it isn't a picture of Miss Saimah. She is Kyan's teacher. BUT it IS a picture of women wearing head coverings. Miss Saimah wears a head covering, I believe as a part of her religious faith. Regardless of reason, it turns out that Braylen noticed afterall. He found a picture and tried to generalize the part that he didn't understand. But in both of these cases there is something more important that he didn't do. He didn't look at something that is different as somehow inferior, negative, or frightening. He did his best to observe and process the difference, and then went along with life. This showed me something interesting and even frightening about children and human nature. Hate is learned. Taught, even, be it intentional or by behavior modeling. Children do not enter this world immediately hating what they don't understand or what is different from them. We teach them too. Swallow that for a moment.

Could it be that we actually teach hatred, distrust, & bigotry? I'm afraid to tell you, the proof is in the pudding, folks. I will grant you that this little study of mine lacked some scientific validity, but I am not so sure that you couldn't replicate it with your own children.

So what is the take home message here? I think, for me, it is to try my hardest to cultivate that kindness and acceptance of others in my children. Is it my hope that my children become Muslim? Well, as a Christian, of course not. But it is my hope that they love other people with the love of Christ, especially when they are different. We know all about being different in our house. Square pegs in a round hole world. My hope is that as for my house, we will do our best to love others as Christ instructed us too. When we are scared, may we give that to God. When we don't understand, I HOPE & PRAY we will ask questions, do a little research and dig for the truth, rather than giving in to ignorance and dismissing, or worse, hating any and everything we can't make sense of. God knows there is more than enough ignorance and hate to go around in this world. God help us not to contribute to it in any way.

1 comment:

Mindy said...

Our children aren't born thinking a certain skin color is better than another.
Thank goodness the U.S. is slowly changing, though I wish it would happen faster. I like that Wesley has a more diverse classroom than I did growing up.

Love the cute story, btw. It's hard to remember to record these precious little conversations that happen every day.