Racial Diversity and Children. Do You Encourage?

Updated on September 18, 2012
K.B. asks from Chicago, IL
40 answers

Hello moms. I am wondering if you encourage diverse relationships among your kids. Kids are so open and genuine that they don't see race or color. The innocence is blissful. It's the parents, who typically engineer and shape their attitudes towards others not like themselves. I have always tried to make sure my daughter was involved in activities that would enable her to play and interact with children of other races, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It helps children to understand that this world is full of different people and cultures, with no one group being any better than another. However, if you have grown up in a "one-flavored environment" as I like to call it, then interacting with others may not be so usual to you. It's unfortunate when you run into kids or even adults, who you can tell have never had any interaction with any race of people other than their own. This seems so sheltered and limiting. Sometimes the only time kids see other races/cultures is on tv and we know these depictions can often be so sterotypical. The world is not one-flavored and I'm so glad, how boring would that be? Do your kids have any interaction (or have opportunity to do so) with kids of other races? How important, if at all, is this to you? Do you find that you focus more on the race difference than your child? I'm curious.

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So What Happened?

Interpetation is a wonderful thing. Perhaps I didn't ask this question clearly enough because it is not about encouraging your kids to play with someone else just because they are of a different race and color.....for those who took it that way. Indeed kids play with whomever with no regard to skin color and that's how it should be. Maybe, I should have asked how often do your kids get a chance to interact with kids of other races? Now there may be opportunity and there may not be. Don't assume that everyone has this opportunity because they don't. Also, don't assume that everyone even allows their children to play with children of different races, because they don't. This is reality for some. I've met a racist child, who unfortunately was groomed by his racist parents to say very nasty things to other kids, which I don't condone. I am not fostering the idea that your child should have a rainbow coalition of friends or have to or that you should force the issue. Pipe down ladies, no malice intended. It's not a racially charged question by any means. I welcome all replies and opinions and hope that I have somewhat clarified my question.

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answers from Denver on

This is kind of an odd question. I don't go out of my way to put my child in diverse relationships but I by no means stop them. I put them in sports what ever child happens to be on his team is on his team and he plays with them. I dont call the school asking if there is a child of a certain background in the class and agree that the child will be in that class because it will be good for them. Is there a "one-flavored" environment anymore? Its been a really long time since I have been in one.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Yeah, she does. My child has never been shy around...well, anyone. In fact when she was about 2 1/2 we went to the park and there was a little girl there that was literally missing half of her face. All the other kids shied away from her, but not my daughter. She just looked at her, then me, then her again.

I told her that it was ok, and she just went about playing with her like there wasn't anything wrong.

Honestly, I don't make the effort one way or another. We just go to the park, whoever is there, she plays with.

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answers from Canton on

My kids are always involved with kids of other races. Where we live, white kids are actually a minority so they don't really have a choice. It's been that way since each of them started daycare and now regular school.
I lived in a town when I was in middle school that was all white and I hated it. My Dad's family is Native American and he was about the same color as the average black person and I always got picked on because of his color.
My kids are definately being taught that everyone might look/sound different on the outside but inside everyone is the same.

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answers from St. Louis on

Wow! so you think that forced diversity is a natural thing? That those of us her prefer our kids figure out their feelings on their own are sheltering them?

I find your opinion laughable. Yes kids don't see color, and that is a good thing. So you propose to eff that all up by pushing color as a reason to be a friend, or meet someone. How you can't see that your attitude has the opposite effect than you believe it does is funny to me.

Meeting someone of another culture or socioeconomic status just for the sake of saying they have is so wrong I can't even begin to articulate why.

I just wonder if you get how stupid this looks to the rest of us that let our children create their own path. Oh hi, this is whoever. Then if we don't react with asking a mess of questions about their background. He is from blah blah blah. Okay. :) Do you know he blah blah blah. Really... :-/ You leave thinking how nice that Barbie introduced us to her token black friend.

It is funny that Barbie is left with this idea that we are sheltered just because we didn't ask the scripted questions of a person we have never met.

Just for the record, my kids have friends from damn near every walk of life. The only common denominator is that my kids like them. I would never force my kids to be friends with someone so I can feel better about myself.
A lot of the answers are interesting. I think color blind means assuming everyone is just like you. By just like you I mean, you have a history, you are a good person, for my kids it means there is a good chance you will get into mischief as well.

Stereotyping or basing anything off of color, status, heritage, regardless of whether it is negative or positive teaches our kids the wrong thing. Everyone is another human being to get to know.

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answers from Kansas City on

When my son (now 13) was about 4 we were at a park playing and an Ethiopian family was also there. He YELLED across the playground to me "Mom, why are some people white and some people brown?" Wow, was I embarrassed, but I yelled back "because God thought our world would be very boring if we all looked the same". He wasn't making a judgement, just being observant and asking a question.


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answers from Philadelphia on

maybe i'm wrong but i think you're focusing to much and sometimes that over focussing points out racisim to kids.

My daughter went to school last year for K in an area filled with white people and gay and lesbian parents. I didnt encourage her to make friends with the kids that were diferent races or the kids who had gay parents. turns out she was best friends with the 2 asian girls and a boy who had two mommies. if she hadnt chosent them as her friend i can guarantee it would be because of personality and not what color skin they had or how many mommies they had.
i was proud however when she became friends with a boy who was 2 grades above who couldnt see and had no friends! i love the fact she didnt see the fact he was blind or tinier then her as anything odd. she had to be told how to play with him after she didnt accoutn for his blindness but she continues to be his friend all year
She never even thought about the color of skin diference because unless you live in the middle of nowhere you see diferences all over (in stores, musuems, and so on) the 2 mommy thing she did ask about and i said good for them. i'm glad they have 2 people who love them and that was it.

I think you should teach your kids race and other diferences dont matter and let them choose who they want.Now should my daughter become racist ever and is under 18 (which i doubt happens without people who encourage it) then she would be enrolled in tons of activities where she was immersed with diferences to learn quickly that she was sadly mistaken to judge people by skin tone

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answers from Honolulu on

**I read your Edit:
My kids play with kids every single day, that are of different ethnicities. And their own friends too, who are of all cultures/ethnicities.
We don't force it. This is Hawaii, where things are just so mixed and diverse you can't escape it.
But there are a few country clubs here... where the majority of its members, can tend to be of one certain "race." For example.

One kid, in my daughter's Preschool however, told her that "You can't play with us because you don't have blonde hair..."
Oh well. But that girl who told my daughter that, is in her grade level now... and she has an assortment of friends. That was then. This is now, how she is.

Gosh... Hawaii is so so so diverse in ethnicity and socioeconomic groups as well. It is not a focus or a big deal.

We have in Hawaii, such a multitude of different ethnicities from so many parts of the world.
So kids grow up, amongst that. And the adults too. And we all interact.
So it is commonplace here. Ordinary. Normal.
It is very important... that children see the diversity and live among it.
We never focus on "race" here or with my kids. It is just people. We are all just people, of different cultures.

Some people, don't even like Hawaii... because it is, as one woman told me "There are too many minorities here.... whites are not the majority."
And it made her uncomfortable... even if Hawaii is her home and she CHOSE to live here, having moved here from the Mainland. She only liked the "ideal" of Hawaii... not the actual living in it, amongst its people.

Exposing a child to various CULTURES from around the world, is important. It is educational.

In my kids' classrooms, the kids are from so many different socioeconimic levels and cultures: Japanese, Hawaiian, Korean, Chinese, Indian, French, Caucasian mixes, African American, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Irish, Hapa (this is the Hawaiian term for 'bi-racial'), Arab, Italian, Greek, (just to name a few), and MANY MANY of the kids here, are simply a mixture... of MANY different ethnicities.... because the people here intermarry and from across all the various races/ethnicities/cultures, here.

My own kids, are mixed, culturally and per ethnicity. Which is very very very very very very very, common here. In other places, my kids would be an oddity or a curiosity... because, in other places of the world, they are called "exotic" or the bi-racial-ness, is made out to be such a focus, or being called bi-racial, is only used per African Americans and Whites.
But it is not, here.

I am from Hawaii. My Husband is from Europe.
My In-Laws, who are from Europe, think my kids are like a novelty, because they are mixed, ethnically. In their country, the culture there is very homogeneous.

Anyway, YES, learning about the world and its MANY cultures and about its MANY people, is important.
Very important, and important in order to understand, the world... and by not being ethnocentric.

And oh my, my kids have friends that are rich or not.
We don't focus on socioeconomic levels or colors or ethnicity.
They are just people.

When my daughter went to Europe on a trip w/my Husband, she went to her cousin's school for a visit, to see their school system etc. Well, when she got there, a huge CROWD of kids, just circled around her... gaping and all bug-eyed, STARING at her... because, she was different looking... and from a "foreign" land. They all stared at her... and some kids even poked at her, as though she wasn't quite a normal human. Because, she did not look like them, and they had never seen anyone, like her... before. My daughter thought their reactions were all so very strange.

Another example being here in Hawaii:
My daughter, doesn't even know, what "Caucasian" is. Formally.
Meaning, White.
Meaning, she just knows what people may be or their foods, per their culture or ethnicity... not per "race."
Calling someone "White," to her, does not make sense.
And she is half Caucasian, herself.

Race and culture, are 2 different things, as well.
Not all "Caucasians" are the same, and not all "Asians" are the same, and not all "Africans" are the same, culturally or ethnically, for example.
It is all cultural.

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answers from New York on

This is kind of a strange question. My son attends a preschool that is incredibly diverse, but that's not the reason that we selected that program. The school has an excellent academic and social program, highly qualified teachers and tons of enrichment activities. Having a diverse population wasn't a topic in our decision making as a "pro" or a "con". In his class he has African American, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, and Polish children. He also has children with learning disabilities and with medical conditions.

Most kids see people of other ethnic backgrounds outside of television, unless they never leave their home. They ask about the color of a person's skin and we immediately shut them down and tell them that skin color isn't important.

Just like Jenna said, we don't talk with our son about playing with children of various ethnicities we talk about playing with friends who "make good choices" or friends who "are good friends" to him.

I would never force diversity on my child nor would I deliberately select a setting that discouraged diversity. That kind of polarity is limiting regardless of which "pole" you are on. He plays with nice kids who make good choices in his class. He plays with the kids at his story hour. He plays with the kids in our neighborhood and on his soccer team.

As for "ignoring" a person's race, that seems really disrespectful to me as well. I really believe that in this country in an effort to be "politically correct" we are erasing culture, heritage and traditions. We encourage our son to ask his friends about their traditions and "why" they do the things they do. Ignoring race or being "color blind" erases part of who a person is and to me (as an Irish/Polish- American married to a first Generation German immigrant) that is just sad.

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answers from Seattle on

Nope. I neither encourage, nor focus on race. (Nor sex, sexual identity, religion, socioeconomic background, etc.).

My son makes friends. The composition of which changes from time to time. For several years we were in a mostly Jewish or Gay circle of friends. Prior to that, it was mostly Asian and Mesoamerican. Currently it's mostly white Anglican (brit transplants), Catholic, & LDS.

We DO see race, religion, sex, sexual identity, etc. in our house. We just don't particularly care what your creed or culture is, as long as you are an awesome person.

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answers from Houston on

I was raised not to see color and that is how I have raised our children. That being said I would never put my children in an unsafe situation just for "diversity".

I also do not want my kids to feel bad because they are white. There is nothing wrong with being what you are, regardless of what you are.

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answers from Fargo on

I would hate to seek out someone as a friend based on their skin color, just the same as I would hate to shun someone because of their skin color. Friendships should happen naturally, not just checking off different races to enhance your own cultural experience.

My children have friends of several races, but it saddens me to realize that people are so hungry to be called "diverse" that they assume that caucasians don't have any "color" or "flavor".

My friends are multi colored, multi cultured, and multi personalitied. My kids' friends are the same. If we are truly "color blind", should we be seeking people out according to their skin color? Or should we be more focused on their character and what's inside?

*edit- Krista brings up and excellent point about the term "color blind". I completely agree with her! It's horrible to ignore people's races. My nieces and nephew are Native American/Caucasian. They are the brown in our taupe and brown family. It raises some eyebrows when they reference us all in terms of color, but it's the truth! :)

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answers from Minneapolis on

There are still places where you have to "hunt it out" if you want your kids to grow up with a more diverse group. If my daughter went to the nearest elementary school to my apartment, her school would be 98% white and mostly upper-income. She instead goes to school by her dad's house and her class is a wide mix of backgrounds, colors, religions, etc. The interesting thing is that 20 years ago when we were sending her older siblings to school, that school district was 95% white. Change has happened quickly.

My stepson (German/English) married a wonderful young woman originally from Somalia. So my daughter (Scandinavian, German, English) has 4 nieces and nephews who are mixed-race and Muslim. So, diversity starts right at home in our family.

I don't believe it's true to say "we don't see color" in our family, because kids DO see color, it's right there in front of them. If we don't talk about it, it can send a different message than we think we're sending. I read a great article on this issue once, and now I can't find it... Another thing to keep in mind is that as kids get older, their response to race (etc.) can evolve, so be aware that middle school and high school can bring new challenges and needed discussions about race and other differences.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think you are over thinking this.

We don't see color in our house, so NO I would never try to get my kids to be friends with someone or sign them up in a sport or group with the distinct purpose of finding them 'diverse' friends.

~IMO, the best example I can set for my kids is what I am doing...we make no distinction between color or race. We are all just people/kids.

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answers from Minneapolis on

we never bring it up, we never treat others as such, we never see color and if we do try to distinguish color its by shade. white, tan, brown, black. Political correctness is just silly. My kids are Bi-racial. I dont care who they hang out with, or be friends with as long as the kids are good and they get along. I have two bi-racial nieces and nephews, I have extended family from all over the globe. Its not an issue for us, if your anything. Kids learn there racial preferences through there parents, not society. If you are leery, or say things against one race or another, your kids are going to see those children as "maybe I shouldnt be friends with them".
I have three children. Their father is from India. So they are Indian/Caucasian. My oldest is a dark tan color with dark brown/red hair and light yellow/brown eyes. My second is whiter than white, with blonde hair and blue eyes, my son is darker brown then his oldest sister, with jet black hair and eyes. I get reactions from other parents all over the board with my kids. Most people dont know my second daughter, and her sister/brother are related. Its not important to me as far as race, as it is how important to me, what the family values are.

Do you live in a really small town? Your statement about kids not being exposed to lots of different races and backgrounds I think is a little off. I live in a very small town, and my daughters Kindergarten has every walk of life in it. The town too. Maybe its just where you live?

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answers from Norfolk on

You can sample all the flavors you want, but you'll still have a few that are favorites.
Different socioeconomic backgrounds?
Let's think about his.
I can't afford to join the country club or yacht club - so no, we don't rub elbows with that group.
We don't vacation in the Caribbean, or Monte Carlo or take Aspen ski trips or go to the Cannes Film Festival - so no hobnobbing with the jet set either.
There are a few neighborhoods downtown complete with crack houses, and regular drive by shootings and prostitution busts - nope, we don't spend any time there.

My son has friends of many colors - if they happen to be in his AP classes at school.
You might be surprised (or maybe not) how being academically inclined affects which races and socioeconomic people you tend to meet.
I've got to tell you there are a lot of Asian and Indian kids but not so many black or Hispanic kids in these classes.
Like values and drives to succeed will group people of all colors.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Maybe it's where I live but I don't think I could try to give my kid an "all one flavor" existence if I wanted to. Are there still places out there where you have to go "hunting out" diversity if you want it? Most people I know have some different races and ethinicities sprinkled in their own immediate family.

I will say it is impossible to get the full spectrum at all times in all places though. Like B said, people are drawn to what they value and have interest in, and I do think there are some racial trends there. Also, few neighborhoods have "everything" and there will be some races that you just get more exposure to than others depending on where you live. It would be nice to queeze them all in there but you kinda have to start with whats nearby. My town has a lot of Armenian and Korean families, and they just had a big dual festival/carnival/heritage celebration at the park last weekend. I thought that was pretty cool. So, that was pretty much in our own backyard... Those kinds of interactions help kids see the connection between race and ethnicity. No one is "colorblind" or "doesn't see color"... of course kids are very aware of who looks like what and how they look compared to others. They are automatically exposed to different races all the time- its ETHNICITY we as parents can choose to expose them too. I can have my kids watch the Kardashians and expect them to learn about Armenian culture... OR I can take them to a heritage event down the street for the real deal.

(And actually, I don't think Armenians even count as a separate "race' from me, caucasion, but you get the picture)

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answers from Dallas on

I agree totally with Just M. I think this kind of over-focusing on issues draws too much attention to something that really isn't there to begin with. My kids both go to public school and are involved in extra-curriculars, so they interact with all kinds of people. I never go out of my way to point that out to them, and we don't do it deliberately to expose them to different races, people are just people and it really is just that simple.

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answers from Washington DC on

Sorry - my kids don't see in black and white...neither do I. we see in full color...I don't care what color or race someone is...that's not what matters to me. CHARACTER matters to me.

I am NOT going to tell my kids who to have friendships with...I will encourage an promote good relationships with kids that behave as I expect my kids to behave...

My kids go to school with kids from all walks of life...I don't shelter them from difficulties...or relationships...they have learned different customs as well as different sayings in languages...

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answers from Portland on

Have you read the chapter on race in "Nurtureshock"? You might be surprised to know that children do indeed perceive race and color... and it's their human compulsion to sort and categorize which will does eventually play out into kids wanting to choose playmates who appear similar to themselves even as young as three, four and five.

That said, if kids do grow up playing with children of other races, it becomes a normal part of life because there is plenty of chance to talk about differences in appearance and to ask questions. If we talk to children about how we do look differently-- and why-- this is a good thing. Pretending that children are color blind only sets them up to become more likely be inclined to play with peers of a similar appearance, not less.

As a preschool teacher, I have explored this every year with the help of Katie Kissinger's book "All the Colors We Are", some Ann Morris books on family (as well as her other books, which show peoples from all nations enjoying common items like bread, hats or transportation) and some activities which encourage the children to discover their own colors of skin, eyes, lips, hair, etc.

Portland is becoming more diverse than it used to be; we happen to live in a neighborhood which is mostly 'white', however, my adoptive father is Filipino, my half and stepsisters are also half-Filipino, and I grew up in Hawaii and keep up some of the traditions I grew up with in my grandmother's house there. We feel that it is important to encourage our son to play with kids he meets when there is obviously something in common (not so much simply because they are a certain race), and we know people in our neighborhood from all corners of the world. There's the multi-generational Chinese family down the street who we say hi too (they tend to keep to themselves); when we go to gatherings, sometimes there are Mexican families and our son's name is Spanish, so that gives us something to talk about. We have friends who are African-American and friends who are as plain white-bread as can be. When Kiddo was young, the dissimilarities were a great conversation starter, and now that he's older, these conversations are becoming more complex, less about color and more about what people are doing when we see them.

What is most important is how I talk about people of other races. "I love having friends from all parts of the world, because I like to learn how other people do things, even if it's different from how I do things." or if a question about "why does so and so look different?" comes up, we can talk about how, just like Grandpa's ancestors, that person's ancestor's came from a place where it is hot, so their skin made a lot of melanin to protect them from sunburns. My son is five and sees all sorts of people on the bus, out and about. He gets positive messages from us that it is fine if he has friends who have darker skin or come from other places. That's what life is about-- to learn, grow and explore. While he enjoys the trappings of other cultures, we also take the time to read folktales from those places as well, and to watch documentaries which show positive depictions of peoples from around the world.

My husband and I both grew up in households where racist jokes were not off-limits and which allowed us to draw some incorrect conclusions about others as children. Which, of course, later embarrassed us, and which made us angry at our parents. We are working as parents now to correct that, but not to over-correct and to force friendships where there might not be enough common ground. No one wants to be the token friend, just because. It's complex, teaching children that they should choose friends regardless of race, but not BECAUSE of their race, if you know what I mean.

This was a very interesting question!Thanks for bringing this up.:)

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answers from Philadelphia on

No, I do not encourage my kids to be friends with kids of different races. I am trying to raise my children to be kind and genuinely good, caring and generous individuals. I want them to find friends that are like this regardless of their race, religion or socioeconomic status.
You ask how boring would it be if everyone was the same "flavor". People are so individual and opinionated anyway I really don't think it matters much how they look, at least not to me.

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answers from Erie on

When people ask me why we decided to buy a house in the city instead of the suburbs we have one pat answer, "Because we don't want to live around only white people." I was brought up to see past color. I feel sorry for those who have not had the experiences I've had, and I never left Erie.

Our city has the largest concentration of Nepal immigrants in the US. In fact, off the top of my head I can count 4 different groups of people with dark skin hailing from 4 different regions of the world that have immigrated to Erie, we understand that not all are African American. And you can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting an Italian, Polish, German, Irish, or Russian festival in the summer. My own neighborhood is made up of at least 5 different ethnicities, and those are only the neighbors I know.

I think you are probably preaching to the choir here, racism is not something I see here. I disagree with all kinds of stuff I see here, but I don't see racist comments or attitudes.

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answers from San Diego on

I don't think you're over thinking it. I don't think there is anything wrong with pointing out differences. I have olive skin, my daughter has creamy white, our President is several shades darker... The images that are in books are primarily white children. Research has shown that it is GOOD to talk to children about race.


My mostly white neighborhood now has a bit of diversity with a very popular church nearby which is run by former NFL player and charismatic pastor who draws all sorts of people. Our nearby park now has families of all races and its a wonderful opportunity to have discussions about language, culture and just being human.

Race and culture do have meaning and then there are individual differences. Eventually, children will learn context and its our job to help shape that frame of reference. I do seek out differences - like festivals or cultural centers - because I think differences should be celebrated.

I find it interesting that some "don't see color" or don't want to talk about race.

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answers from Boston on

While I don't live in an area that anyone would mistake for being very diverse, there is enough diversity in my area that there are families of various racial and ethnic backgrounds in my town, much more so then when and where I grew up. I don't have to make an extra effort to "expose" my kids to diversity because it just happens through school, sports and other activities. My oldest son son and step daughter recently had a party and of the 16 kids there, two were Hispanic, one was black and one was Asian. It's not something they would ever notice - to them, they are just friends. It does sometimes befuddle me how rough the older boys can be with each other, joking about race, religion and ethnicity with each other in ways that make me cringe but it seems that to them, these differences aren't taboo.

We recently had a funny play date when my younger boys had three friends over - one boy's parents are from Russia and have very heavy accents, one boy's parents are from Nigeria and have a slight accent and one girl just moved here from Brazil so while her parents are fluent in Portuguese and English the little girl's English is limited (but it's amazing how much she has picked up in 6 months!). The parents were all here at the same time for pick up and were joking that it was the United Nations and that we needed a translator.

I guess the idea that people can actually grow up in the US in the year 2012 and not interact AT ALL with people of a race or ethnicity other than their own is hard for me to believe. Are there really places left here that are that sheltered? Still? Again I live in a relatively affluent suburb that is mostly Caucasian and hardy a model of a melting pot and I would have to imagine that if it takes no effort to have diverse social circles here, it really can't be that hard everywhere else too. But maybe I'm naive.

In any case...I do very much like that my kids have diverse groups of friends and that they take an interest in their friends' backgrounds. My kids know about Russia and Nigeria and Brazil (and the DR, Korea and other places) because they think "hey that's where my friend's family came from!" and take an interest. They know about other languages, and take an interest in sports from other cultures (particularly soccer) on an international level because their friends know about the super stars of their (or their parents') original country. They eat different foods and try different things. It's cool, and I'm glad that things have worked out this way.

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answers from Savannah on

Interesting question. Interesting responses.

When I was young (kindergarten) I know for sure that I didn't realize people's color because....I just didn't notice until someone brought it up once. But I was in a city with black, white, hispanics. When I was in 2nd grade, we went on a field trip that rocked my world and made a huge, lasting impression on me. I don't know what it was exactly, but I remember that we went to one room, and we were in China and it was decorated as such, we had some toys to play with from there, listened to some music, ate a small sampling of food, looked at pictures of people and a lady talked to us about family and daily life in China. Then we went to another room for about an hour, and we were in India...then Kenya...Egypt...France...Mexico, we went all over the world just learning, listening, tasting, etc. It was SO MUCH FUN.

I moved a few years later to a very segregated place (south Louisiana) and it was very strange to me, but it was the way it was. Mom said it was like we'd gone in a time machine backwards to the 50s. In high school, I suppose I subconsciously sought out foreign exchange students....not for the sake of having the token foreigner as a friend, but because it was fun and interesting to me to talk to them and share my daily "stuff" with them (food, music, clothes, literature, thoughts on boys, whatever) and to hear about theirs. One of my friends from 1992 that I am still dear friends with spoke 7 languages fluently, her language was NOTHING like ours but she would even correct OUR grammar. It was interesting to see that the world just opened up for her since she learned all those languages, she could seriously do ANYTHING, anywhere. I admired her and wanted to be more worldly like her. I liked having to think about whether what I thought or took for granted, being challenged, not necessarily changing my mind but at least seeing a different side, and sharing my side.

I ended up after a few "lost" years being a missionary and it was the best time of my life. There was adventure, and learning cultures intimately...learning PEOPLE. So yeah, that kind of thing is very important to me. I think from reading some of the responses you received from this question, they may be reading the question differently than I am. I for one DO know plenty of places where there are seriously very few opportunities to meet people from another race or culture. Also places where it's a little frowned on to hang out with people of other races or cultures, and mixing is not encouraged. Last year, my neighbor (a high school vice principal) told me that she asked her son (in kindergarten) about a friend he had that he stopped talking about. Her son said "Oh, I can't be friends with him anymore mom". She asked why, thinking the boy must have been naughty in class, but he said "Because he's brown". She almost lost her mind----SHE is "brown", and he is biracial! The little boys her son was trying to run with didn't know his mother was black, and just thought he was maybe half latino or something. So yeah...kids can act racist even in 2012 and it's not always a reflection of their parents.

But to answer your question, I do like to consciously provide opportunities for all kinds of experiences. Not to make my sons meet a "real live (whatever race)" in itself, but because all kinds of experiences are what makes a full life. We do get to do equestrian lessons, and attend yacht hops, top chef style events, polo matches, symphonies, live theater, art shows, etc (the more expensive things, our passes are provided by my husband's work) and we also like to go crabbing off a dock, fish a little, meet people out there to chat to, and love buying fresh shrimp and produce from the little stands. My kids have helped with outreaches and events at Children's hospital, homeless shelters (if on the adult side, they've just helped pack bags and if on the children's side, they've played with the kids and sat among the residents while I do a puppet show or tell stories), we live in an upper-middleclass neighborhood but our soccer, kindermusik, kung fu, and library activities include children of different socioeconomic backgrounds and races. We go to a very wide range of ethnic restaurants, we listen to all kinds of music and world beats, we're working as a family to learn Spanish together, we watch lots of neat historical and Nat-Geo shows, I've been to 14 countries, my husband has been to 23, and we have "treasures" from our travels all over the house. When the library recently had a special month of Afghanastan cultural things, we went to the lecture, read some books, looked at picture books about the regular people there, ate some food, etc.

Right now we're learning about China because we're taking our 5 year old to China with his kung fu kwoon in March. He's been to Guernsey, Jersey, England, Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland so far. We also took him on a mission trip to help with medical supplies, blankets, and educational purposes (for their school) to the Navajo Nation. So yes, we do provide tangible opportunities for him to meet, play, and learn about different people. But we can do that and still let him follow his own feet and make his own friends based on whatever it is that makes people want to be friends. An interest or connection of some sort. That's just chemistry a lot of times, so there's nothing much you can do about that as long as certain guidelines are followed (good friends make good choices, are kind, etc). Most of my 5 year old's friends are white because most of the children here on our street and at the pool are white, but his little "girlfriend" is half Syrian, and his best friend in class is a little girl who is "brown, with brown hair, and blue eyes" he says. My 2 year old only has 3 friends. One is white, 1 week older than him, and the other 2 are black because they are in his part time daycare and that's who he plays with. We do not try to be "color blind", meaning that we ignore differences and pretend everybody in the world is the same. It's more interesting to celebrate and learn from differences. But while we're not "blind" (using the definition I just gave), we don't make choices on whether we like someone based on race, religion, or whatever. I wouldn't say I focus on race. But I am genuinely interested in cultures, and the stories that go with them, and have been ever since that field trip I took back in 1982. I believe that you had more simple intentions when asking this question than some are perceiving.

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answers from Seattle on

To answer your questions...
It would be crazy boring.
My kids interact with other races ALL THE TIME.
I don't really think of it as important or not important. It's a fact of life. I have never specifically put them into some kind of activity thinking there will be more racially diverse. LIFE is racially diverse in my area.
Plus...my kids are bi-racial. :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes, diversity is important to me!

I take it as a nod that im going in the right direction when I say something to my son like "Your partner in science is Sam? Do I know him?" and my son lists about 6 characteristics of Sam and "darker skin" is usually 5th or 6th on the list.

My son has buddies of different races and religions and has O. pal with 2 dads. He knows that not everyone on the world looks like we do not believed everything we do. He's curious to learn new stuff. Like he knows (at 9) that the world would be REALLY boring if everyone was the same.

Some feel that that, in itself, is discrimination because in a perfect world skin color, religion, etc. would be immediately listed without issue or second thought.
That we shouldn't be "color blind" at all.
But this isn't a perfect world, is it?

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answers from Minneapolis on

We don't go out looking for diversity. My kids are half Hispanic. My daughter is lighter than me and I am lighter than my son. I guess we are diverse withing our household since my husband is the lightest. Whenever kids talk about friends and they describe them it's usually "They have dark/light hair or they are lighter/darker than me" It's really no big deal to them or us. I tell my kids that people come in all shapes, sizes and colors and that's what makes us special. My kids go to a charter school that is very diverse. My son is in Cub Scouts and I have noticed that it is not quite as diverse. My daughter takes a Dance class and I've noticed it is not quite as diverse.

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answers from Chattanooga on

I don't encourage my DD to play with/not play with anyone just because of their race.

I teach her to play with them because she likes them.

I'm not going to try to make her play with children of with another ethnicity just s she can have a diverse group of friends... BUT I also don't discourage her to play with them because of said ethnicity.

Basically, I'm trying to teach her to completely ignore race, and pick her playmates purely because she can have fun with them, and they are good people.

I DO think it is important to expose her to situations where they will be exposed to diverse groups of peers though. It's important for her to understand that just because ONE group that is primarily one ethnicity behaves a certain way, NOT ALL people in that ethnicity does. For example... at our local park, there is a group that is there nearly every time we are, and they are all Hispanic. This group is NEVER supervised, and the kids just run completely out of control wild, running over any children smaller than them. One of them even gave my DD a black eye, when he tried to run up the slide she was coming down and kicked her in the face. It got to the point that whenever we went to the park, she would avoid playing where they were because she KNEW she would get run over. (Even with Mommy standing right there!) One day we went to a different park, and there was a little Hispanic girl playing. My DD was very hesitant to play with her at first, but eventually realized that this little girl was NOT acting wild, and by the time we were ready to leave the park, they were playing together quite well. :)

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answers from San Francisco on

I want my kids to get to know kids of all backgrounds and all races. I think life is so much more enriched when we aren't all stuck in our own little comfortable bubble and group. I encourage relationships with all people. We have friends who are :homeless, wheel-chair bound, elderly, enormously rich, super poor, and everywhere in between. I appreciate it when others give my kids a chance. We are bi-racial and get stereotyped often. I like to break stereotypes!!!

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answers from Washington DC on

We live in a diverse area. When the older kids had parties, it was like the UN had dropped in. We also have friends of many races, abilities, occupations. The couple who sit ahead of us in church is from India and the wife regularly wears saris. It's not uncommon to see people in our area in traditional garb from around the world. We are also a multicultural extended family. I would have to actively shield my daughter if I didn't want her to dive into our neighborhood rainbow. (And I see no point in preventing friendships solely based on race or religion.)

I forget who told this story - I think it was a blogger I ran across - but this person described being on a bus with a bunch of kids and also some women wearing traditional black headscarves. The kids were absolutely convinced that the women were ninjas and had superpowers and speculated on what really awesome abilities each might possess. I want DD to always try to see the awesome in people she meets. Not everybody is awesome, but she should determine that by who the person is and not categorize by outward appearance. I don't necessarily want her to be colorblind, though. Acknowledge differences and share points of view. Find value in different cultures, because at the base of it all, we are more alike than we often might think.

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answers from Sacramento on

We live in a fairly diverse area (and one that likes to think that it's much more diverse and open that it really is...) I have to say that our school does a fantastic job of celebrating other cultures and diversity. My kids come home with questions now and then about the work of Dr Martin Luther King (for example) and they can't really wrap their heads around racism. It is lovely to see... And they have friends of all colors, cultures, shapes and sizes.

They are now starting to see prejudice toward other people though... mostly people who have special needs. It upsets them that other kids call them names or try to get them to do things they shouldn't do. And I encourage them to stand up for them. They know that I am passionate about supporting people with developmental disabilities.

I feel like my kids will like who they like and participate in the activities that they enjoy or that are valuable, without my encouragement. We are fortunate that we have opportunities to explore different recreational activities and other events that bring us together with people of other races and cultures. I guess I do ry to give them different experiences, but I don't think of it as making sure that they are involved in activities that expose them to diversity, the way you describe.

It sounds like you focus more on race differences than your child, perhaps because you want to be certain that your children grow up with open minds about race, ethnic and social-ecomomic backgrounds. I think it's a wonderful awareness.

And to answer someone's question... yes... unfortunately there are still places where you do have to seek out diversity. Sad as it is, not everyone is as open as we'd all like to believe.

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answers from Chicago on

I think it is very important for children to have experiences with different races/cultures from as early as possible. It is actually quite true that children DO see race and differences from early on. Instead of ignoring the differences, we make sure we talk about them and talk about all the ways we are similar and what we have in common. I grew up in a very diverse (culture, race, socio-economic) suburb. I did not know how fortunate I was until I moved into the city, where I found out it did not look like downtown (a melting pot.) It has been hard experiencing this kind of segregation of people! Because we hold diversity important, we did our best to get our children into a school that was diverse as possible (that was one of our items on our checklist in a school, alongside of course, academic environment). We take our children into different areas and festivals, we teach them about cultures and not just our own. I want to have my children be able to interact across the board and be able to judge people based on them as a person, and not make mass assumptions. The only way to do that, imo, is to actively work on it from childhood. I think we are doing a pretty good job!!

After reading the responses I think people are confusing exposure with "forcing." She did not say "force" your kids to play with children of different cultures. However, if they are never exposed to children of different backgrounds, how are they supposed to get to know them or have them be a part of her social world?" Children learn from experience- so if you never give the the opportunity, they will not learn. Learning about people needs, for young people (and adults) real life experience. I can read about and see about people on tv and the internet all day long- but it is more valuable to interact and personalize instead of develop an "idea" of these people and their lives. In some areas the diversity is a given. In some areas (like mine) it is not. And because of that I will actively seek out activities that offer that exposure. There is no need to feel defensive or that by teaching and exposing white children to other cultures means we are teaching them to not be proud or to be ashamed of being white. It means you understand the value of getting to know how other people experience life, and to find common ground in humanity.

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answers from San Francisco on

My grandkids themselves are of a multitude of races.

We have: African American, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, Caucasion, Japanese. I think I got them all! So, I don't have to encourage anything! And they do see color - my granddaughter sees that her dad is black and she is not. Of course they see it; it just doesn't mean anything to them!

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answers from Phoenix on

No, I don't!

I teach my kids to be nice/kind, loving, and helpful to everyone. I don't care what culture, ethnic background, religion any of their school mates, boy scouts, dance class buddies are because they are all to be treated the same! I don't have to seek out "diversity" because it's right in front of them...and another thought, just because someone is the same skin color as me, doesn't mean there isn't a lot of diversity between us!

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answers from Washington DC on

Our DD attends daycare run by a Fillipino lady who is pretty great. While sometimes her english can be a broken, I am pleased that DD has been getting 'flavor' in her from 6 weeks old. Additionally, my husband is 1/2 Puerto Rican so we get that flair in our home, especially when my MIL and her sisters get going!!! In addition to that, my husbands extended family is comprised of a half Puerto Rican/Half Jewish cousin, 2 African American/Puerto Rican cousins and one 100% Puerto Rican cousin who has a DD that is 1/2 Puerto Rican. Our DD also has an African American Godmother who has been my Angel on earth since the day I met her. I think I can honestly say we have flavor, and probably more along the spicy side of it and I am so incredibly proud! :o)

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answers from Grand Forks on

My older sons best friend is Filipino and my younger sons best friend is East Indian. My best friend is aboriginal (First Nations). My kids are in Filipino martial arts (Sikaran Arnis). They go to the Phillipine Cultural Center for this, and they are the only non Filipino kids there! I have lived in this neighbourhood my whole life, and as a child I don't remember anyone who wasn't white. By the time I was in high school there were a few different races, and now it is even more diverse. I'm glad my kids don't take race into consideration when making friends.

PS. I didn't put my kids in the particular martial arts so that they would experience cultural diversity, but it is an added bonus.

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answers from Houston on

I grew up in Queens N.Y. very diverse. To answer your question go to the park, the festival, the skating ring because you like it, and it safe and fun. We could not go to certain places because of dangerous criminal activity being commited by diverse criminal elements. You instill in your children what you believe and hope for. You would not be asking if you did not care. Rock on ladies great discussions!


answers from New York on

Interesting question. When my two oldest were young we lived in a multi cultural apartment complex and they had friends of different cultures. As they grew older, middle and high school, they, and their friends began to segregate themselves more. Now they are young adults and have some friends from diff cultures. My youngest is in a Very multicultural class and has diverse friends, but who knows when he gets older?? I dont know what I would do if I lived in a very "mono" cultural area...... and yes I'm sure they still exist!



answers from Los Angeles on

One of the reasons that we chose the school we did for my son is because I knew it would be more racially and socioeconomically diverse than, for example, the school most of his preschool friends were attending. That wasn't the most important consideration, but it was one of several.

Otherwise, I really wouldn't say that I spend a lot of time seeking out venues where my children will likely be exposed to different cultures, but nor do I go out of my way to avoid them. It's not something I spend a whole lot of time thinking about, but I am aware that race is a part of life. I think it's naive to not address it when it comes up.

When my son was three, the teacher in this Mommy and Me class read a wonderful book on the occasion of Martin Luther King's birthday, talking about how people have different colored skin based on where their ancestors are from. People who are from countries that get a lot of sun have more melanin and therefore have darker skin, while people who are from countries that do not get a lot of sun have less melanin and therefore have lighter skin. It was such an informative, non-judgmental way of explaining skin color.

My son is aware that people speak all different languages, and we talk about the different countries people are from and things like that. But again, it's not something that I necessarily spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. I feel that we discuss it when my kids have questions or the subject naturally arises.



answers from Chicago on

we have very few blacks, asians and India natives in our neighborhood, and lots of whites and hispanics. I talked to my kids about this when they were about 11 and 8. They were like "who cares what color their skin is" . So even without exposure they had easily learned that it wasn't a big deal and just another aspect of appearance such as eye or hair color. I never went out of my way to point this out, just acted like it was no big deal, cause it isn't.

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