A few days ago I was with some teens talking through some cultural sensitivity training as we always do before our day camps. We do this because in general the mission teams don’t look like, or have the same life experiences as, our campers. We believe this kind of training is crucial for all of us to love our neighbors, campers and families better.
We felt it relevant and necessary to address the Trayvon Martin trial and verdict, since this was only about 24 hours after the verdict was made known. It was important to us that the team understand the hurt and anger in our neighborhood over the case. What struck me was that at least one person in the room had never heard the name Trayvon Martin. Never.
Today when I mentioned Nelson Mandela (it is his 95th Birthday!), a high schooler with us had no clue who that was – had never heard the name. I was speechless and then sad, and then annoyed that no one had ever told this student about an apartheid, or the man of color that stood up to it, was jailed for it, then dismantled it, and received a Nobel Peace Prize.
Not sure who is to blame, but this is a major failure. Was there a gap in the curriculum? A lack of care for current world news? Parents who are sheltering their youth to racial or societal or justice issues? Churches who are silent about the relevance of the Bible in our past and present? A conspiracy about keeping the minorities at “victim” status? The list goes on…
What I know is this:
For all the crap I hear about it not being necessary to have a specially designated “Black History Month”, we just aren’t doing enough. Our kids of all ethnicities need to understand the complexities of these situations. Our kids need to hear the stories, bear the pain, feel sorrow for the agony that was caused. Realize that their world, their life, no matter how sheltered, is altered by the injustice that goes on in the world.
I expect parents to do this in age-appropriate ways of course. duh.
I’m so glad my kids go to a school where Nelson Mandela’s picture is on bulletin boards with other world changers. I’m relieved that I have them in a place where the teachers who are a wide range of skin tones are teaching kids about the pain that has been caused (generally by people who look like us), the victories that were won, the distance we have yet to go, and that we will need to make these strides together. I’m excited that my kids sit next to kids who mostly do not look like them, and that they learn together that they will be the next world changers.
But it is not just up to our teachers in public school. Parents need to step up their game in expanding their children’s worldview. Let me say this again: I expect parents to do this in age-appropriate ways. Teach your kids that people of all ethnicities did and can and should fight injustice. Teach your kids that they can and should stand with people who don’t look like themselves. Put them in environments where they build relationships with others who have different experiences. Please. Because I long for the day when your kids and mine and all of their beautifully shaded friends will change the world together.
Two of my favorite up and coming world changers are pictured above. I hope they do it together. I believe it’s true. I’m holding onto hope.