Racial Tension: What Are We Teaching Our Children?

September 22, 2016
Racial Tension: What Are We Teaching Our Children? header image

Recent racially charged events have left many of us parents wondering. What do we tell our children? As we read about the latest shooting, protest or riot on our twitter feeds or watch footage on the nightly news of growing racial tension, we wonder how our kids are processing all of this. Along the lines of sex and relationships, race can be a difficult topic to discuss with our children. It is vital that we approach this topic intentionally with grace and truth. Our job as parents is to teach them how to properly view themselves and others.

Although I believe God can redeem any upbringing, when it comes to race, the dining room is as important as the courtroom in administering justice. What is said there and who is invited to sit there will do more to form their opinions than any after school program, Sunday school class, or even the internet. At times, parents may need to be intentional about fostering their own relationships with couples or co-workers of different backgrounds. Our children need to see these types of tangible real friendships.

A couple years ago my daughter walked in as I was watching coverage of police subduing Eric Garner and the ensuing protests in New York. My daughter, 5 years old at the time, inquired, “What are they doing to that man?” This was a teachable moment. I explained in simple terms what was happening and that this man had died and people were upset. While we must exercise discernment in what we tell our children, it is important to be honest about the world around them.

Our children watch our nonverbal reactions to race as well as hear our comments. Be mindful of both because they are equally destructive. Racial jokes, generalizations, and stereotypes inevitably influence their expectations as they grow older and form the bias that sometimes creates the outcomes we witness on our television screens.

We all have specific lenses and, as humans, we will struggle against our own pride, prejudice, selfishness, and racism. Before we can hope to raise a loving generation we must first identify and be remorseful for our own missteps in this area. Because we are human this will be a continual process as our sensitivity heightens and our shortcomings are revealed.

Pray with your children. After the protests in Baltimore, my daughter prayed for forgiveness between all the people involved for months and months. (We actually had to tell her it was okay to stop praying about that particular situation!) I believe this issue is one God cares about and we need His power and wisdom in confronting and solving it.

Teach them about contributors to our country who came from all backgrounds as well as those who courageously stood in the gap even when it may have been unpopular. This will encourage them to stand for what’s right even if their group does not. As important as race and culture are to our identity, as for me and my family, our allegiance is to God and what He says above all else.

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-Benjamin Watson



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