As a parent, you teach your children right from wrong. You teach them manners, and how to dress themselves. You prepare your children for the first day of school, you guide them through what to do in an emergency – but do you prepare them for discrimination? And as a parent, should you prepare your children for discrimination? If you do decide to do so, how do you go about doing it?
As a woman of color born and raised in Canada, I can hardly remember having any issues growing up and attending public school. It didn’t even occur to me that I should prepare my daughter for discrimination when it was her turn to start school. Sure, I spoke to Hafsah about bullying, but those were pretty generic discussions about what it is and what to do if she were ever bullied.
[bctt tweet=”Would she constantly be waiting for someone to treat her differently? ” username=”wearethetempest”]
When I realized the importance of holding this conversation, after the negative experiences at her first elementary school, it also hit just how carefully I would have to tread to help my daughter feel comfortable in school and life.
Weaving diversity into early education
My main concern for my daughter was that I did not want her to feel that she was any less of a person due to the color of her skin, or because she chose to wear a hijab to school since kindergarten.
Let’s say I sat her down and said, “Hafsah, since you wear the hijab and you have brown skin, there is a high chance of others making fun of you.” Would she constantly be waiting for someone to treat her differently? Would she start to think that she was different in a negative way, or that she was somehow less than her classmates?
Instead, I decided to simply advise her that if anyone had any issues with how she looked, dressed, talked, and so forth, that she should inform the teacher and myself immediately.
[bctt tweet=” I was conscious of what books I read to her.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Educating my daughter on the diversity that surrounds her is a must for me as a mother. I know she needs to accept and should accept others that have roots from around the world, but choose to reside here in Canada. So when I selected books to read to her, for example, I kept that message in mind. Reading Hafsah books featuring diverse characters was one way I educated my daughter before she entered school about the different cultures that exist around us. I was conscious of what books I read to her, and would purposely select stories with a main character of different background than ours.
I knew these books were having a positive impact when Hafsah would put on her cultural clothing on special occasions and refer back to the characters in the books. “Just like that book you read to me that other day, Mama,” she would say happily. “The girl in that book wore her culture’s clothes on her special holiday too!”
Selecting a diverse school
I mentioned that I had little to no issues attending public school as a child. So I didn’t expect my daughter to have any negative experiences either. That’s why I was shocked when I experienced discriminatory behavior from her principal at her first public school, who completely ignored my family simply because we were Muslim.
I will never forget the awful aftertaste of that day. I was waiting for Hafsah at her school’s office with my two other children, a toddler and an infant. Hafsah’s school bus was late, and the new driver was going to drop her off at the school instead of our home. My youngest, just months old, started babbling in the office when the principal walked in and heard him from afar. Excited, the principal smiled and expressed interest in seeing who the baby in her office was. But as she neared and saw my children and I, she let out a cold, “Oh,” and walked away. Wow – I couldn’t believe someone could lose interest in a baby because it was born into a Muslim family!
[bctt tweet=”I will never forget the awful aftertaste of that day.” username=”wearethetempest”]
What was the difference between Hafsah’s school and mine? The schools I had attended as a child were always filled with a diverse student body. My daughter’s school was not. So I quickly found an excellent school in another community made up of various cultures.
Having my daughter attend a school filled with many different cultures made a huge difference. Not only were we accepted as Muslim family in her new school, but my daughter made friends with students of various backgrounds. It was beautiful to see my daughter interact with students that spoke a different language at home and ate different foods than we do. My daughter would come home and tell me about her friends’ family traditions, and she would tell me that she told her friends about the spicy Pakistani food we ate and the holidays we celebrated.
Being an example
Your children will pick up on your actions, and how well they respond to diversity will depend on how well you respond to it. So make sure you are best role model for them.
If you are at the grocery store, say “hi” to those around you – not just people that are the same race as you. Seek and maintain relationships with a diverse group of people, like your neighbors and co-workers.
[bctt tweet=”What was the difference between Hafsah’s school and mine? ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Don’t take bullying from others. It’s not acceptable, no matter what your age is! If an adult is putting you down for any reason, make sure your child observes you dealing with the situation in an appropriate and mature manner. The reality of the situation is that they’ll need the example in the next few years.
It’s certainly no easy task being a parent, as there are many issues that will arise when it comes to raising our children. However, it’s our responsibility to educate our children of the potentials of bullying and discrimination.
[bctt tweet=”Don’t take bullying from others.” username=”wearethetempest”]
We must make sure we surround our children with different cultures. We must become citizens of society they can look up to and turn to at any time.