Now's the time to broaden our tribes.
We need to intentionally throw open the gates to new friendships and new social experiences if we’re going to expand our cultural boundaries and unlearn the prejudice that's unraveling our country.
It's hard. I know.
We're all so preoccupied with finding a tribe and maintaining our small community.
In this odd new world where families live far from one another and parenting is a 24-hour-a-day, 18-year marathon, finding like-minded, loving families to share the fun, the burden, and the car pool is essential.
Finding our tribe is good for our health. It's good for our jobs. It helps us live longer.
But do our tribes limit our social experiences?
A recent Pew Research Survey "finds that relatively few adults say they have a lot in common with those who don’t share their own racial background. This is especially true of adults who are only one race. Among those who are single-race white, 62% say they have a lot in common with people in the U.S. who are white, while about one-in-ten or fewer say they have a lot in common with people who are black, Asian or American Indian. The pattern is similar for adults who are single-race black or Asian."
Given the immense amount of experiences, emotions, hopes, and fears we all have in common regardless of our background, this reported sense of alienation from one another is disheartening.
Sure, we all want epic back-up support from the people we love best, but what about making time to build bridges to new friendships and new cultural experiences?
I too often find myself resisting uncomfortable social settings and new friendships (granted, I’m an uber-introvert), because there is JUST. NO. TIME.
Even for my own little tribe, time is scarce.
But I'm coming to realize that expanding my family's social and cultural experiences deserves a place on the calendar, even if it subtracts a bit from other priorities.
Diversifying my children's encounters with the big, wide world feels like one small step towards unlearning the prejudice too deeply embedded in our society.
Unlearn prejudice. I realize that’s a big ask.
When we hear the word prejudice, we tend to instinctively throw our hands up and deny that we, ourselves, harbor prejudice.
But then of course, we all harbor unhelpful prejudices in one form or another.
While citizens around the country advocate to make their fears and hopes heard with rallies, earnest consciousness-raising events, and peacefully-minded barbecues, two things are abundantly clear.
The way we fundamentally experience race in this country is deeply problematic and must change.
And the way we raise our children has a huge impact on this problem.
I was raised in the era of color blindness. I was told, “We don’t see color. Everyone is just the same.”
This approach is now understood as terribly problematic. Color blindness prevents us from acknowledging, discussing, and overcoming racial injustice.
As a parent, my mantra has always been, “Everyone is different, and that’s beautiful.”
I bring this line out when my kids notice religious differences in their peers at school or when someone they know goes gonzo for a new app or movie or show that my own child thinks is silly.
“Everyone is different, and that’s beautiful.”
But we recently moved to a rural/exurb/TV-Land sort of community. Where we live, everyone isn’t all that different. It's still a beautiful community to be part of, with plenty of difference and nuance to celebrate. But unlike the wonderful melting pot from which we moved, we are no longer surrounded by vivid multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multiculturalism. And to be honest, even our former inner ring suburb wasn’t all that multi-anything.
How do I help my family notice, celebrate, and become comfortable with the beautiful differences our world has to offer?
There is no easy answer, no quick fix. Doing Good Together™ is often called to give expert advice, and admittedly, on this subject, we are seekers of a solution as much as everybody else.
But, even if there is no magic cure, leaving our relatively homogeneous enclaves to experience the wider world can be a big part of our push for change.
Calling out prejudice when we encounter it can be part of our push for change.
Broadening our circle of friends – our tribe – can be another big part of our push for change.
Inviting our families and ourselves to experience the many-layered nuances of culture available in our communities is another big part of it.
It's time to explore more broadly.
It’s time to expand our tribe.
It’s time to think of the world as our tribe.
Here are six fun ways to celebrate diversity and broaden your friendships as a family.
Cover New Ground
Travel is essential. And I'm not just talking about expensive journeys to new parts of this country and beyond. Start in your own city. Explore new parks outside your own community, visit an array of new restaurants, and enjoy the diversity of culture your own city has to offer.
Take in a Festival
Watch for multicultural events near you, whether they celebrate the heritage of a culture you’d like to learn more about, or celebrate food or art from all cultures. Bring the whole family, a lot of enthusiastic curiosity, and discuss what you learned when you get home.
Try Something New
Meet new people by joining a new club or trying out a new hobby. Check the newsletters of local museums or cultural groups for unique opportunities. Take a language together as a family. Start a multicultural book club. Get creative!
Volunteer in Diverse Communities
Whether you branch out in your own city or volunteer on vacation, sharing your time and talents to help others is a wonderful way to meet new people. Show up with respect and openness for those your serve as well as those you serve with, and your whole family will come away with a much broader perspective, along with a deeper understanding of the experiences of others.
Be Open to New Friendships
Making friends is hard enough these days without adding a diversity requirement, so of course that's not what I'm advocating. Instead, I can tell you I'm striving to be more open to new friendships and unexpected connections with others. In part, this means I'm leaving my phone in my purse while waiting to pick up my child or waiting in line at an amusement park or waiting anywhere. Real connections with real people are taking a priority instead. When it seems natural, I take these connections a step further, inviting like-minded acquaintances for dinner or coffee. I believe it's important to allow new friendships to form, even if time is scarce and my tribe is intact.
Keep Talking and Keep This in Mind
As we strive to intentionally meet new people, enjoy a diversity of cultural experiences, and broaden our children's approach to the world, here are three more things to remember.
Be curious. Ask questions, politely, and listen well to what others are saying.
Read widely. Check out DGT's picture and chapter book collections celebrating diversity. Plus, watch for our upcoming post featuring even more book titles and conversation starters to help guide your family through a conversation about prejudice, social justice, and diversity.
Notice your own judgments. If you find yourself pre-judging someone based on a tattoo/piercing, article of clothing, walking style, or skin color, admit it to yourself. Bring that sentiment up with your family later. And intentionally remind yourself that these pre-judgments have nothing to do with the individual you encountered and everything to do with a past experience.
Call out prejudice, kindly. If you notice another person making a prejudicial comment, calmly speak out. Model brave advocacy and peaceful confrontation in front of your children. Simply saying, “I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounded,” or “That can be considered offensive, perhaps you meant...” might cause the speaker to reevaluate their statement.
Meeting new people leads to a plethora of teachable moments with our kids. Encourage their (respectful) questions. Answer them openly and honestly.
We need to build bridges that cross arbitrary color boundaries as well as over-emphasized political differences, unintended socio-economic divides, and every other rift that's preventing us from being open to one another.
It's time to intentionally, purposefully explore the beautiful, curious, glorious differences among us.
This is the first in a series of posts designed to help your family celebrate diversity and strive for equity and understanding across differences. Watch for a second post in the coming weeks, featuring extensive additions to our book recommendations along with creative ideas to start a big-hearted conversation about racial justice with your children. Can't wait? We have picture book and and chapter book selections to help start you conversation today!
Interested in sharing your perspective? Add your thoughts in the comments below. Or consider writing a piece for us. We are actively engaging and recruiting a diverse group of guest bloggers to expand our wisdom on this and other topics. If you're interested in writing with us, let me know.
Browse these simple resources to continue celebrating diversity.
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The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.