I remember when I was a little kid, I had little to no access to the idea of diversity. At school, we were plus or minus, looking or dressing alike. On TV, I saw blonde kids in ads acting so happy, and looking so polished. There wasn’t much standing out to point my eye in the direction of diversity, until almost graduation when I started to interact for the first time with the real world. However, the real, hands-on exposure I had to diversity was during my full-time work years, and as I visited multiple countries and relocated as of last year.
In one of my many interesting and entertaining conversations with Maria, my daughter, I wanted to pick her beautiful brain on how diversity may look like to her being in an international community, and surrounded by kids from all over the world. I asked her about her friends, where they come from, how they look like and what language she speaks with them. She told me that her friend Veronica is from Saudi Arabia (which I know is not the case, but I found that sweet) and that her friend Fahad is from Egypt (which I also know is not the case). She had no reason to classify them based on their name, color or how they look like or dress. This reminded me of the time I was taking an inter-city train in Germany, in which I had a long cultural conversation with the passenger next to me and he asked me where I was from. I obviously said Egypt. He was astounded. He thought I was from the UK because of my accent. He actually listened and observed; he did not judge by what he saw.
The above is an example of the pure, fertile ground that our kids have before being pushed and pulled by social media, peer pressure and identity issues. Who said “white” is nice? Or “straight hair” is beautiful? Why do we engage our children in this slippery slope, where they become self-conscious and uncomfortable at a very early age that I see moms taking their seven-year-old daughters to the hairdresser to get a straightening hair treatment? It is because of how materialistic we have become; how we evaluate things because of their “face value”, and how we no longer look past the labels? Bullying at schools happen because of a lack of acceptance. It is something to be fixed at home, not at school.
Puh-lease, at a very young age, teach your children modesty and an acceptance of diversity; all races colors, religions. Help them become agile in a community like ours that is becoming so rigid because it is stuck to how things look, not what they are. My heart breaks when I see teenagers eyeing each other, and judging based on looks and other shallow aspects. These kids are a by-product of their parents. Make sure you mind your language, and think about the ways you are driving your kids to think. Remember, diversity is not just external. Diversity is also in the mind. Great minds don’t have to think alike; they just need to think together.