How Do We Teach Our Kids to Love People Different From Us?

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So, this blog is primarily about our autistic children and even though this does deal with that slightly, this is more focused on the recent events that happened in Minnesota. I have felt like I need to use my voice to do my part to bring to light the change that needs to happen.

Almost three weeks ago, I saw a video of an African American man, George Floyd being killed by a police officer. I was in tears. Even now as I type this, I am getting emotional. (Some of it was because it reminded me of something that happened to Marissa this past year. I’m not quite ready to share that yet, but I will at some point down the road.) I want to focus on the tragic death of this man and how he was treated because of the color of his skin. I’ve never seen someone press the life out of someone. It is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Since then, there have been many protests and also riots and looting all over the U.S. and the world.

My husband and I have since talked about our life and what we are doing to spend time with and build meaningful relationships with people that are different from us. We’ve made some mistakes looking back. We took the easy path… the path everyone takes by moving into a neighborhood with people like us. Spending most of our time in places with other people like us. Having a daughter that is biracial, my husband and I could have the attitude, “We don’t have a problem with race, we have a child that is bi-racial.” But is that truly evident in every part of our lives? I don’t think so. That needs to change. That will change! Before Covid, when going to a meeting, I would automatically sit with people that are like me. Why? It was the easy way out. Now, my husband and I are on the search to find groups that we will hopefully be able to get to know people that are different from us. It is a start and only a start. We have so much to learn.

This has also brought to light for us what Marissa will face as she grows up. In a world where inequality is prevalent, Marissa is an autistic, bi-racial girl. Those three things together could prove to be a challenge to her down the road. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish I didn’t have to teach her how she needs to respond when police officers ask her questions or teachers in middle school/high school when they ask her to do something that she doesn’t want to do. With the added special needs, Marissa has absolutely no filter. She speaks her mind. What will happen when she is 16 and someone asks her questions or challenges what she is doing? What if she threatens to punch someone or calls someone a name? Will someone call the police or something worse? Will someone see the color of her skin and immediately write her off? How can we prepare her for this world? It is something we will continue to work through as you grows older.

How can we teach our kids to love all people? Here are just a few ideas or thoughts.

  • How are we talking about other people at home around our kids? Are we showing love to all people in front of them or talking bad about others?
  • Are we spending time as a family with people different from us? Make it a priority! Model it!
  • If we see someone that is different from us are we treating them with the same respect that we do anyone else?
  • Are we going places that are multi-ethnic with our kids or do we stick to places that are with people just like us?

There are many more ideas of things to do to start down this path. Share your ideas in the comments.

Marissa's Mom

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