Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Racism and tolerance: teaching our childen

“Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” – Dennis Leary

It is troubling to hear, particularly in the U.S., of a backlash against Muslims because of the terrorist attacks. Attacks against mosques remind me of attacks against synagogues.

We should be equally appalled and equally outspoken against this kind of persecution against our fellow citizens who happen to be Muslim.

I have personally known many Muslims over the years and without exception have found them to be gentle, thoughtful, peaceful and wise.

They are family-centered and compassionate. Certainly every cultural group or religion has its radicals, but we should be against terrorism, not roughly 25 per cent of the world who are Islamic.

As parents, we may think that because our children are not exposed to racism in our home that we are doing our job.

While the absence of racism is definitely a positive, it is not the same as teaching tolerance. In fact, we must move beyond tolerance (how would you feel knowing you were tolerated?) to teaching our children multi-cultural appreciation. How different it would be if our children were taught in school about different cultures and religions, their beliefs, traditions and practices.

Perhaps though, there is one small problem to overcome. If we believe that our way is better, or the only way, that we are chosen ones and that those who believe differently are somehow lesser beings, how can we possibly teach understanding and acceptance of others?

When I was about eight years old the boy next door told me I was going to burn in Hell because I was not Catholic! Of course I was terrified, and wondered “What kind of world is this that I live in?”

To my mind I cannot conceive of any God that would punish children, or anyone, for the particular culture or belief system into which they were born.

So before we can educate our children into this multicultural world we all live in, we may have to clean house of our own prejudicial thoughts.

We have to find a way to honor our own spiritual path in a way that does not dishonour others.

There may be roughly 6,866,600,000 of us on this planet, but we are all members of the same human family. Maybe it is time we started acting like one.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychotherapist.For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or CDs, visit www.gwen.ca.

Geographic location: U.S.

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