(Revised and updated from October 4, 2017 post)
Does your child have at least one, significant, cross-cultural friendship?
Do we really grasp how much children are formed in the first 7 years (pre-operational stage)? Perhaps the whole nature (genetics) vs nurture (environment) debate would be greatly minimized if we truly understand how much nurture intersects with nature early on in forming our children in indelible ways.
Our preferences, convictions and even personality are carved in these early years. I truly believe my children will be Chicago Bear fans for the rest of their lives, because of what I have carved in them (Sorry Packer fans)! However, on a much more serious level for this conversation, how does formation intentionally/unintentionally impact racism, classism and xenophobia (prejudiced against foreigners) in our children?
We can say all day long to our children that our family is not racist, classist or xenophobic, and yet if all of our meaningful relationships are people of the same skin color, same culture, same language, same socioeconomic status, same legal status... then what are we truly forming in our children? Who do we invite to our homes? With whom do we spend time? With whom do we organize play dates? Character is not only formed by what we input in our children but also by what we omit. Intentional or not, by 7 years of age we have instilled in our children what is normal and what is abnormal.
If we tell our children to not be racist and yet never lead them into friendships that cross cultures, then will we raise a generation that says they are not racist yet view having intercultural friendships as abnormal and uncomfortable.
Here is an example of being uncomfortable. A few months ago, I took a Hispanic couple with me to speak at church about their story. It was powerful and I know the group resonated with their testimony. Yet, after the service only 1 family went up to greet and speak with this couple while almost everyone came up to speak with me. While I am sure there was not any hint of racism, classism, or xenophobia in that group, their discomfort in engaging a conversation with someone who is different communicates otherwise.
At Charleston Bilingual Academy our mission statement strategically uses this word “intercultural.” We are not interested in simply being multicultural where diversity is present. We want to create a culture where our diversities interact- learning, appreciating, admiring and ultimately loving one another as image bearers of an infinite God. And we deeply desire that our children's generation will have a different normal.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”