The Influence of Mommas
It seems like race, racial equality and racial reconciliation are being discussed virtually everywhere these days, or at least everywhere virtual! But, perhaps, these critical issues aren’t being talked about enough in the one place that matters most…the home.
As a young mom 30 years ago, my goal was for my children to experience more diversity than I had as a child---attending a segregated private school, church, and the country club where we hung out on weekends. Sending our children to public schools and encouraging them not to judge people by their appearance, was about as far as our conversations went. I didn’t hear talk of racial reconciliation, allies and bridge building when I was raising my children. If only I knew then what I know now!
I still don’t have answers to all the questions, but one thing I do know: mom, you have a lot of influence. God-given influence over your children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says this:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
So, how can you use your influence to move your children and our world towards more inclusion, equality, and compassion?
Perhaps a good place to begin is teaching our littles, when they are very little, that they were created in God’s image. "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 ESV
Kids need to know and believe this before they can see and appreciate that others are also created in the image of God. Even though we don’t all look exactly alike.
How I wish TED Talks had been around when I was raising my children! This is a great one for you to watch: "Children will light up the world if we don't keep them in the dark." The speaker, Dr. Lucretia Berry, encourages parents to have better conversations with their children about skin tone and race. Dr. Berry talks about "equipping our children to be the substance of the just society that we long for” by emphasizing color consciousness as opposed to colorblindness. The various hues of brown, as described by her preschool daughter led Dr. Berry and her husband to launch Brownicity, dedicated to anti-racism education. Their motto is: “Many hues one humanity” and their website and blog are filled with resources.
We may not all agree about whether these important conversations should focus on ethnicity or race, some citing that race is a merely a social construct. But that is a conversation for another day. Today, I just want to encourage you to talk to your kids about the differences they see.
In her article, “How to Talk about Race with Your Kids” Michelle Reyes discussed why fostering a healthy awareness of racial and ethnic differences is good. She encourages parents not to discourage your children from talking about these differences, sharing this quote from childhood educator Madeleine Rogin, “When they are silenced or pick up on the idea that pointing out differences is not okay, they begin to think there must be something wrong or bad about these differences.” Children learn not only from what we say, but also from our reactions to what they say. I remember being so uncomfortable when my children pointed out (sometimes loudly) ethnic differences. Give kids the freedom to discuss what they can clearly see, even when it makes us slightly uncomfortable.
Whether talking about race or ethnicity, we should talk about these differences in a way that magnifies God. After all, creating different people groups was his idea. Roses are a good way to illustrate this. Roses come in a variety of colors, but a rose is still a rose. Regardless of our “hue of brown,” we are all image-bearers of a good and loving God.
And there’s more that we have in common. We are all the same when it comes to sin and our need for a Savior. We all need the good news of the gospel and it is God’s plan for the church to demonstrate unity in diversity. Jesus came because we all needed Jesus. Because of Jesus all our sins can be forgiven. Through Jesus we can all be reconciled to God and one another. Beauty in diversity.
Moms, we also need to be mindful of what our children hear us saying…or not saying. When friends or family members make racially insensitive remarks in front of our children, do we speak up? If not, why? None of us want to cause a confrontation or risk offending others, but don’t let this fear be stronger than the desire to use your God-given influence to raise children who can be the “substance of the just society that we long for.”
So, momma, besides talking to our children about the diversity they see, all the beautiful hues of brown, what else can we do? When it comes to books and toys that support these messages, there are so many options today that weren’t available 20 years ago. I know this because I am constantly shopping for grands! We All Belong: A Children's Book About Diversity, Race and Empathy by Nathalie Goss is beautifully written and illustrated children's picture book for infants and up. God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell is a picture book recommended for preschool-3rd grade that celebrates diversity. This book helps children see how people from all ethnic and social backgrounds are valuable to God and how Jesus came to rescue all kinds of people. She also has a companion Coloring and Activity Book by the same name. And Love Your Neighbor (Veggie Tales) is another book that reinforces empathy and compassion. Dolls with different skin tones and toys that include people with a variety of skin tones, like Little People play sets, also help reinforce inclusiveness and the value in diversity.
We know that there is inherent value in diversity because diversity is God’s plan for heaven. Revelation 5:9 (ESV) tells us: "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”
One day we will all worship together!
Serving as a mentor mom for MOPS groups in three different states over that past 15 years has been such a blessing to me. I love hanging out with moms who are encouraging one another to raise kids who love God and love people. These mommas give me so much hope for the future because I know how much influence moms have. And you, momma, can use your influence to change this world. You can raise children who will make it a more inclusive, just, and compassionate place for all of us. Dig in to all the resources you have at your disposal and find creative ways to influence your little tribe.