October 2014-- From my own parents to my children to my grandson, I have observed three generations of cultural growth and discovery.
My family was, as were most of my peers’ families, good, hardworking people who immigrated to America from Italy. Pretty much everyone they knew was very much like them: they looked and spoke alike and had the same customs. When they met or interacted with other races or religions, the unfamiliar made them nervous and an invisible guard went up.
Many of today’s grandparents and seniors have been Americans for decades and they have shared experiences with all kinds of people. Hopefully, a mosaic has formed that connects us to our global neighbors more than ever. As the next older generation, we still have a job to do.
It’s has been over sixty years since Rosa Park stood up for her rights and thankfully that sort of legalized injustice is no longer an issue. Remember, if prejudice is learned, so is acceptance and kindness. Our grandchildren will base friendships more on values and interests if taught to treat all people with respect.
Judging by the amount of different ethnic restaurants in Staten Island and the amount of children who know what sushi is, I believe we have a springboard for learning just by the foods we eat!
Here are a few tips from Beyond the Golden Rule: Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice
- Acknowledge differences. Emphasize the positive aspects of our different languages, music, and cooking. Also, be honest about instances, historical and current, when people have been mistreated because of their differences.
- Challenge intolerance. If your grandchild says or does something indicating bias or
prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence. Silence indicates acceptance, and
a simple command — “Don’t say that” — is not enough. First try to find the root of the
action or comment: “What made you say that about Adam?” Then, explain why the
action or comment was unacceptable.
- Foster pride. Talk to your grandchild about your family heritage to encourage self-knowledge
and a positive self-concept.
- When dealing with teenage grandchildren, try to stay involved. Messages about differences exist all around teens: the Internet, songs, music videos, reality shows, ads and commercials, social cliques at school. Know and join some of the websites. Even my 84 year-old mom enjoys Facebook.
- Encourage your teenage grandchildren to get involved in causes they care about. As mature adults, we are able to teach them how to have a voice in their community and to empower them to help resolve issues of injustice.
Remember, as we speak, 3-year-olds are still curious about why people look different, 9-year-olds are being called a slur because of their religion, and 15-year-olds are being snubbed by those outside of their social clique at school.
The time to learn, evolve and grow is now, my friends. The world is truly getting smaller and the expectation for our grandkids is only getting bigger. As grandparents, we must model positive values with an open heart and a willingness to work for change.
By Staten Islander Marianna Randazzo, who is an author, educator, as well as a newly minted grandmother.