Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ethnic and Racial Role Models Rock!

I have never really considered myself a lucky person. In fact, one of my mentors was perennially frustrated because he thought that I alway saw the glass as half full.

But, today I think my glass is at lesat 3/4 of the way to full!

One of the issues for people raising children of a different race is providing authentic role models. After all, if you are white and your child is Chinese, you can teach him about China, but you can't teach him how to be Chinese. You may have an intellectual understanding of what a child of color might experience, but you would never really know what implications the child's race or ethnicity has-simply because your experience in the world has not prepared you.

Today, my daughter is splashing in a pool with LuLu. LuLu has been in the US (from Shanghai)for four of her 13 years. LuLu's mom is my daughter's Chinese language and culture teacher. When Min offered to send her daughter to be a mother's helper a few days a week, I was estatic-and not just because my daughter would be out of my hair for a few hours-she would have role model. A Chinese teen, born in China and living in a Chinese family.

My daughter took to LuLu right away and I heard Lulu teaching my daughter some Mandarin and practicing what she already knew. LuLu taught her the character for horse-and then played Monopoly with her. They were chatting away like old friends.

I believe that my daughter is starved for friends of color, role models and experiences that I can't give her. I am not exaggerating. Nor am I downplaying my role as her parent. I am just facing up to the fact that as much as I love her I can't provide it all.

Beside her immediate attraction to LuLu, my daughter surprised me by listing her 'best friends' the other day. The are: Delaney (adopted from China); Ping (adopted from China) Kendra (adopted from Cambodia) and Pablo (born in El Salvador).

I was surprised those were her choices-I was expecting the parade of the WASPs.

But her choices tell me a lot about what she is processing now.

So, as you look to raise great kids, don't overlook the importance of developing friends of all shapes, colors and sizes. You don't have to feel awkward in 'targeting' people-after all, if you were a single woman, you might 'target' single moms to engage.

Get your kids used to dealing with people from everywhere, in every color in the rainbow. It might be one of the most important thing you do for your kids!

With Respect and Celebration,


1 comment:

plymgary said...

I completely agree with you Deb that it is important to socialise your children with children from ethnic cultures. I think this is the only true way that racism will be overcome as much of it stems from ignorance. Gary from ethnic gifts