There is such a sweet, innate, innocence within our children. They happily embrace and play with each other regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, and background. Sadly, as adults, many times we lose this innocence. Our nation is becoming more and more diverse. However, it seems that at times we are surrounded by divisiveness. There is much truth in Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote:
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other…
As mothers, we have a great opportunity to raise culturally diverse children. This has become a new goal of mine and I would like to share some tips I have learned and implemented along this journey:
Tip 1: Celebrate and recognize significant months.
There are numerous months set aside to recognize, commemorate, and celebrate various groups. Intentionally celebrating these months will make learning and teaching about diversity more organic.
Here is a list of American recognized month-long observances:
• February – Black History Month
• March – Irish-American Heritage Month, National Disabilities Month, and Women’s History Month
• May – Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Haitian Heritage Month, and Jewish American Heritage Month
• September 15 & October 15 – German American Heritage Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month
• October – Filipino American History Month and Polish American Heritage Month
• November – Native American Indian Heritage Month and Alaska Native Heritage Month
During these months you can set time aside to learn and discover about the various groups that make America a diverse and special nation. You can try a variety of recipes and/or restaurants unique to each ethnic group. You can also celebrate individuals who are important and significant to each ethnic group. The opportunities for exploration are numerous.
Tip 2: Ensure your child’s personal library is filled with culturally diverse books and videos.
One of the easiest ways to naturally teach diversity is through books and videos. For example, Disney has been proactive in producing children’s movies that highlight diversity through the main characters and settings. Also, PBS has numerous documentaries that are great for older children. Here are some of my family’s favorite books which incorporate and/or celebrate diversity:
• Many Nations, An Alphabet of Native America by Joseph Bruchac
• Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson
• Rhymes Round the World by Kay Chorao
• The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold and illustrated by Tommie dePaola
• We March by Shane W. Evans
• I Am a Rainbow by Dolly Parton
• Moses, When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
• Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Burchac and Jonathan London
• God’s Very Good Idea, A True Story About God’s Delightfully Different Family by Trillia Newbell
• Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDemott
Tip 3: Visit local museums, points of interests, and landmarks.
In Knoxville, we are fortunate to have many local museums, points of interests, and landmarks that are valuable for teaching diversity. Visiting these different places will allow your child/children to explore different cultures. Here is a list of local places that are worth a visit:
• University of Tennessee, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture – This museum offers permanent and special exhibitions and a variety of events.
• Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville, TN – A museum in Knoxville “Where African-American History and Culture are Preserved.”
• Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton, TN – The center follows the chronologically detailed story of the 1956 desegregation of Clinton High School in life-size pictures with dramatic narrative.
• Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, TN – The Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum that lends voice to the people of Southern Appalachia through the artifacts and stories they left behind.
• Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC
• Blount Mansion in Knoxville, TN – Blount Mansion was the home of William Blount, his family, and his slaves.
• James White’s Fort in Knoxville, TN – You can tour the fort and experience the frontier lifestyle.
Tip 4: Do a DNA kit and study the results.
Thanks to companies like Ancestery DNA, you can take a DNA test in the comfort of your home and determine your exact ethnicity. My family has yet to do this, but my children have been begging to do it. It is relatively expensive, however, I imagine it would be quite exciting to discover and study the results. What a great way to truly immerse your child/children in a world of diversity.