Talking to Children about Prejudice
Preschoolers in a Dallas church opened their Christmas program with greetings in seven languages. In a San Diego church, a Spanish pastor, Sudanese pastor and Cambodian pastor serve children and their families. Their children are learning to look at a person’s heart instead of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7).
Children aren’t born with prejudices but as young as age three they notice physical differences. By age five they observe various family and religious traditions. As they enter school, children come into contact with negative attitudes. “Teacher, she called me a name!” Or “They don’t want me on their team.” When children face prejudice you can help them meet rejection with love, acceptance and accurate information.
Jesus Saw People Not Labels
Children are exposed to stereotypes on television, in books and through friends. People with poor self-images make putting others down seem like harmless fun. Sometimes children don’t know the meaning of the words they use. Names like “chink,” “honky,” “porky,” or “cracker” become attached to a group of people. In Jesus’ day the Jews saw the Samaritans as a mixed race to be avoided but Jesus saw the Samaritan in John 4 as a child of God. Jesus’ kindness and the woman’s faith caused many Samaritans to believe He was the Messiah. “Name calling is unfair and hurtful. God is the one who decided to make different kinds of people and He loves them equally. When you’re upset with someone what can you do to let him know how you feel without calling him a name?”
Do you know children who frequently get left out because of low economic status, racial heritage, disability or gender? These biases don’t belong in the family of faith. When children shy away from a child who is different, ask how they would feel in that child’s place. Explain the difference between prejudice and dislike. “Prejudiced means you have opinions about others without really knowing them. Dislike is based on an experience with a specific individual. When you get to know people you may like them. You may not believe the same things but you can show them respect.” In Acts 8:26 an angel of the Lord told Philip to go and witness to a man from Ethiopia. Philip didn’t let their cultural differences keep him from telling the man about Jesus. The Ethiopian believed on Jesus that day and he and Philip became brothers in God’s family.
Prejudice is dangerous because it comes from pride instead of love. Jesus
gave us the antidote: “Love. . .does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. . .It always protects” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Help children identify pride as sin. “When you reject people because they’re different, you may feel like you’re better than them. That is called pride. A proud heart doesn’t have room for loving-kindness. Make a list of the things you have in common with them so love and understanding will grow.” Michelle knows what it’s like to be stared at in the mall. Her mom is blond and fair, while her dad has dark skin and dreadlocks. “Mom home schools me and my brother because she’s afraid we’ll get picked on at school,” Michelle said. “But at church we are thankful for different cultures and know that we’re all special to God.” The Christian community is not free of prejudice but it is possible—one child at a time.
God is the one who decided to make different kinds of people and He loves them equally.
Create a culturally sensitive classroom.
- Use multicultural visuals.
- Provide books about children of other cultures.
- Talk to children about prejudice.
- Encourage questions about people who are different.
- Present Christian heroes from a variety of backgrounds.
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