by LAURA REAGAN-PORRAS, MS
When I was in second grade, my best friend was Leticia (Letty) Lopez. I was new to Mrs. Morris’ class and Letty took me under her wing. Since I like to play sports after lunch, instead of swing on the swing set or talk under the trees like the other little girls our age, Letty thought I was cool. She and I played with the boys and learned how to catch footballs on our chests. It was just more fun than what the girls were doing.
One day she invited me to play at her house after school. My mom said, yes. I was thrilled to go. When Letty walked in the door, Letty greeted her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother spoke Spanish to us. I didn’t understand a word but I thought it was exotic. Letty showed me her room that she shared with her sister. I had a room by myself at home. I remember feeling sorry for her that she had to share. Letty didn’t seem sad.
After we played awhile, Letty’s mom called us to eat. She served tacos. They were so good! I loved them. We never ate these kinds of tacos at home. I felt as if I entered another world going to Letty’s house. I thought it was cool. But I also remember being glad to get home that night, hug my own mother and sleep in my room by myself. Visiting another family and another culture that afternoon made me appreciate my culture. Enlarging our children’s world in any way often has that effect.
Demographics in America are changing. The Pew Research Center and U.S. Census have released the following projections:
The Hispanic population will rise to 128 million in 2050, tripling in size. Latinos will account for 60 percent of the nation’s population growth by 2050.
The black population will grow to 59 million by 2050, a rise of 56 percent.
The Asian population will grow to 41 million in 2050, nearly tripling in size. In 2050, the nation’s population will be 9 percent Asian.
The white, non-Hispanic population will grow to 207 million by 2050, a 4 percent increase.
Be conscious of our own attitudes and the attitudes we want our children to adopt about race and culture.
Our children will deal with people of other races and cultures simply because America’s demographics are changing. They will go to school with persons of different race and cultures and they will eventually work with or do business with persons of different races and cultures. This reality may beg the question, how do I prepare my children to become competent cross-cultural communicators?
1.) Practice diversity. Be a good race relations role model.
Demonstrate positive race relations in practical ways in your own life by demonstrating diversity. Ask yourself, do I have friends of other races? If most of your friends are from your own race and culture, you may want to consider opportunities for you and your child to add more diversity to your lives. Visit a church that worships in a different language than your own on Sunday. Observe how they worship. Find something to appreciate about it and comment on it to your child. You may find yourself asking, do I openly and verbally appreciate other races and cultures in front of my child? If you see a television program about a different culture, use the opportunity to discuss a different way of life and worldview. Find one thing you like about it and state it out loud.
2.) Answer your child’s questions about race and culture in an age appropriate way.
Psychiatrist, Alvin Poussaint, MD states that there are two critical development ages when race and culture questions are likely to occur. They are, ages 6 to 8 years old and the teenage years. These stages are times when the child’s world is expanding and their values are forming or solidifying. Responding to a child’s questions at these stages in simple, honest terms is important. Being conscious of our own attitudes and what attitudes we want our children to adopt about race and culture will not only help our children to appreciate their own culture, but also develop as capable cross-cultural communicators.
LAURA REAGAN-PORRAS, MS, is a family sociologist and a freelance writer from Texas. She and her husband raise two daughters in a bi-cultural, bi-lingual home. She can be reached at www.heart2heartparents.com for comments.