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Raising kids to become inclusive adults: Here's what to do

'Pivot away from the colorblind conversation and really acknowledge the fact that we all come to the table with different thinking.'

HOUSTON — The issue of race is once again front and center in the United States as protests continue in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

One central question is how does the country move forward? How do we heal the divide? One place to start is with our children.

Cynae Brown is the assistant director of the Center for Equity in Action at University of Houston-Downtown. Her goal is to dismantle implicit biases.

What is implicit bias?

“When you think about how you make a generalization of a community, of a people. Things that you think about, that maybe you were raised with, that you don’t even recognize are there," Brown said.

Brown said raising kids to become inclusive adults starts from day one, and it takes work from a parent.

“Pivot away from the colorblind conversation and really acknowledge the fact that we all come to the table with different thinking, different ways of life, different colors and it’s all valuable," she said.

That means including these differences is everyday life by providing diverse dolls and books. Then, work to include real life examples, too. Consider what their doctors, teachers and tutors look like.

“Really allowing children to see that, ‘Hey, this is real life.' That’s where the real work begins," Brown said.

Brown also said parents modeling their behavior to the lessons they’re trying to teach is important.

“Your children watch what you do to see what you actually believe," she said.

Shay Tatum, a mother, student and former UHD student government president said when she grew up, there weren’t many dolls that looked like her -- and she noticed. It's something her 5-year-old daughter doesn’t really have to think about.

“We buy white and we buy black dolls,” Tatum said. “We buy all of the Moanas.”

However, in the wake of George Floyd's death, Tatum wanted to speak to her daughter about her African American heritage.

“I decided to have a conversation with her about race and color. And I told her, I said, ‘You know, you are a black girl?' And she looked confused and she said, ‘Hold on a second,’ and she went to her room and came back with a Crayola box, and she was like, ‘Look. I’m not black I’m tan.' And she said, ‘My friends are peach and brown.’ My 5-year-old understands color as a crayon; not color as a race.”

An ideal to strive for as we teach our children that our differences are what makes us all so valuable.

“We have to really believe that the children are our future,” Brown said. “And we really have to make certain that we are having conversations with every child as a child so that they don’t grow up and repeat the patterns of history.”

For ideas about what books to read to children that provide diverse characters and cultures, Brown recommends a list published by EmbraceRace.org.

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