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As the events in Charlottesville unfolded, I know mothers everywhere wondered how to respond. Do you talk to your kids about what you believe? Do you talk to your kids about what those marching believe? How do your kids see you behave toward people different from you? What values are they tucking away in their little hearts? Is this something you even need to address with a child as young as five years old? I can’t answer those questions for you, but I can tell you how I responded as a southern Christian mama in an effort to try and process it all for myself.
My son heard his father and I talking about Charlottesville. He asked what was happening. “Some bad people are doing terrible things there, but they will be stopped,” I said. My husband added, “Those people are doing bad things because they think people should be treated differently just because of how they look.” I know it all goes deeper than that, but for a 5 year old, I think that’s enough for now.
We have conversations about race and social issues pretty regularly in our home. The concept of people being mean to other people just because they think other people are different – or less than – is not new to him. We live in Birmingham, Alabama and the history here is not pretty. We have decided as a family to face those issues head on with our son from a young age. Honestly, the effects of segregation are still felt strongly here. The school systems are cut up into little pieces all over the place so even our children are still very separate in the public schools. People who don’t know us very well will make comments that show that the ideas that certain types of people are less desirable to be around are alive and well. We had neighbors say they were moving because the elementary school we are zoned for has too many kids on free lunch. A member of our church made a not-so-nice face when I told him what school we were zoned for, and then he proceeded to say “There’s a lot of Latinos at that school.” I find myself shocked at this blatant hatred and desire to surround yourself with people who look just like you and are similarly situated from a socioeconomic standpoint. What’s that all about? Seriously?
It is particularly concerning to me that people who profess a desire to follow Jesus Christ have these feelings rooted in their hearts and minds, and are not even embarrassed to share those thoughts with someone they hardly know. Jesus is the most inclusive, loving, grace-filled person to ever walk this earth. If you are a Christian, you believe he is the Son of God who says that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in his image. We pray for our hearts to be more like Jesus’ heart and then we sell our houses and buy new ones just to get into a public school with less brown people or less hungry kids. It breaks my heart. I won’t apologize for those people. Their sin is their sin, just as my sin is mine. I believe God loves us all, the sinner, the saint, the racist, the inclusive, the liberal, the conservative, the believers, and the non-believers.
As the horror in Charlottesville unfolded, I felt a lot of things, but I refused to feel scared. Nothing productive comes from fear in my heart, and I know I need not fear this hate. The torches held up in the night by those terrorists will never shine as bright as the love I see and feel around me everyday. The love and courage of that small group of students standing tall when surrounded by that hate shined brighter than a million torches. I will give no power to the ugliness by staying silent, looking away, or even whispering. I am on the side of light and love, and I will proclaim that loudly.
Let us raise our children with an awareness of injustice and hate so they can be the brave ones to take it on. Let us raise our children to shine bright for hope and love. Embrace diversity. That isn’t a liberal concept or buzzword. Our children need to understand how inherently valuable, worthy, and precious every single person in this world is no matter what they look like, where they live, or what they believe. Tolerance isn’t even the goal. Tolerance isn’t enough. Tolerance implies that we are just putting up with something that bothers us. That’s not love, and that’s not going to solve a thing. We don’t tolerate other people. We love and honor other people. “Everybody” is the answer when asked “Who deserves love?” Everybody, without exception. Don’t even teach your children to hate the neo-nazi terrorists who marched in Virginia. Don’t introduce an ounce of hate into their pure little hearts. We defeat hate with love. Let us give our children love as their greatest tool and their greatest strength, and all the ugliness and hate won’t stand a chance.
Not sure how to respond to all the political fighting that is so prominent in our country right now? Take a moment to read What To Do When You Can’t Pick A Candidate.
Photo Credits: Kristen D.