Sometimes I think about the very big responsibility that I have on my shoulders to raise children who are kind, honest, moral and caring. One of the things that I would like to teach them about is that the differences between people are to be celebrated and respected. I want to help them not to be racist, sexist, classist and all the other "ists" in spite of what they may be exposed to outside the home.
Children are not color blind. They see differences. What's unique about children is that they tend to see differences neutrally. Adults, on the other hand, tend to judge those differences and to purposefully and unconsiously teach children to do the same. Perhaps it's as simple as locking the car door as we enter a certain part of town. Or it's talking in singsong voice to women and in a more direct way to men. Or assuming that a child who does not look like her mother is adopted.
But what about well meaning parents who do not want their children to judge others? Parents that tell their children that everyone is the same? The truth is that everyone is not the same. There are distinct differences between cultures, genders, and groups of people in general. If we apply the golden rule of "treat others as you would like to be treated" then we can commit blunders and even offend others. I would challenge all of us as parents to teach our children to learn about others, their cultures, their preferences, and to apply the "platinum rule" of "treat others as they would want to be treated."
There is no shame in being different, no ill intent in recognizing that we are different from one another. The real work is in figuring out that my way of doing things is not the way, but just one of many ways of living life. My children do not have to completely understand or agree with other ways of living life. I just hope they are open and inclusive of different perspectives.