Racism in Today's World
Until he was 9 years old, Niko Crawford, of New Market, Maryland, was proud to be a Muslim. But when he started third grade, everything changed. The children in Niko's class that year began taunting his best friend, Mohammed, calling him a "terrorist" and an "Osama lover," and even trying to beat him up on the school bus. Niko, who is African-American and not easily identified as a Muslim, stood up for his friend, but he didn't tell anyone about his own family's religion. The teasing continued, though, and eventually Niko came to his mom in tears.
"After seeing how badly his buddy was being treated, my son was ashamed of his religion," says his mother, Piper.
"And he was scared."
Niko's experience is a sad reminder that bigotry is alive and well in our country today -- even among kids. We'd like to think that in our increasingly multicultural society, we're raising a generation of accepting, unbiased children. After all, they're growing up in a world where powerful figures come from all ethnic backgrounds, where TV and movie screens are filled with a rainbow of role models, and where lessons in tolerance and celebrations of diversity are part of most curriculums, even in preschool.
Yet old attitudes die hard. "Racism may be less acceptable today than it was a generation ago, but it still exists," says Kerrie Laguna, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, Pennsylvania. "And kids are quick to pick up on their parents' biases -- even if they're conveyed in subtle, unspoken ways."
But just as parents can pass on their prejudices to children, they can also play an invaluable role in teaching them to be respectful of everyone. Here are seven ways experts say you can raise a child to accept -- and appreciate -- diversity.