The Charlottesville white nationalist march ‘Unite the Right’ resulted in three deaths and 34 injured. Because of this and similar tragedies in our country, we beg you to consider this question as you work with Scouts: what can I do to encourage my youth to love all people?
Racism no longer exists.
At least, that’s what I believed in my youngster years.
As a fledgling military brat, I migrated from Western Rockies to Southern hills to Eastern cities. However, I never experienced racism, or, at least, in my childhood innocence, I never knew it was there.
I grew up in a family who wrapped their arms around people of all cultural backgrounds. We invited the Muslim shop owners over for dinner and asked them to share their religious beliefs. We got our Brazilian friend to make us dinner from his home country.
At one point, my five-year-old sister’s best friend was from China, my seven-year-old sister’s best friends were from Argentina, and my best friend was from Nigeria.
At the age of thirteen, I moved to Iowa, and my conception of a loving world splintered. For the first time, whether it was due to location or my developing age, I saw racism.
While there was little overt racism, there seemed to be a physical division between Caucasian youth (who made up roughly 60 percent of the school) and African-American youth (who made up about 40 percent of the school). From almost the first day of school, I noticed that people of different races sat in separate locations at lunch.We wore different clothes, listened to different music, and lived different lives. I’d never seen such a racial divide before.
One day, I sat in the car next to my mother on a ride to school. Our friend asked us to pick some other students up.
So, we did. The two strangers verbally bashed another race, using foul words and saying unrepeatable things.
As they stepped out of the car, one of the kids turned to the other and stated, “That could have gone worse. At least, their mom is from North Carolina.”
I was appalled. What did that have to do with anything? My mom was the most loving person around, but they judged her based on her environmental background. How could their thoughts of hatred towards a whole group of individuals be real?
My mental positivity towards world peace erupted with that experience and others. Dark holes crept open, revealing the world that still has issues. I grappled with recognizing that racism is still here.
Racism is real in America. But, love is too. I see human kindness everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Here are my thoughts on a few things we can do to encourage our Scouts (and all others) to experience love for all people:
- Encourage Scouts to gain a diverse array of good friends.
How can youth embrace other people if they just hang out with those who are exactly like them? All too often we stereotype Scouts as white middle-class Christian boys. However, there are female Scouts, Buddhist Scouts, etc. If boys in your troop seem to be very similar in background, consider what you can do to change things. Even if your troop is part of a religious organization, people from diverse backgrounds who are not part of your religion can join.
Recruit boys from every neighborhood in the community. Teach your Scouts to embrace other cultures. Lead by example as you make friends from all walks of life.
2. Embrace (don’t hide) cultural differences. Discover similarities.
Too often we feel like we have to pretend we are the same as others. We don’t have to be the same to be equal! It’s our human differences that make us so beautiful. People from other cultures may be different than you, and that’s fantastic.
Introduce your Scouts to a variety of differences. Eat Indian food. Watch Korean dramas. Attend a worship service at another church. Visit cultural festivals. These things can even be done as part of the American Cultures merit badge, and it all helps. Teach them how similar we all are as well. We hold most things in common.
As you lead, remember this: you may not agree with a particular cultural or social practice. That’s okay, but you should still care about that individual.
3. Teach your boys to serve those who are different than themselves.
Nothing engenders love better than service. Nothing. Consider completing a project for people across the globe. You might assist another religion’s non-profit organization. Or, you might help a club interested in a subject you know little about. You might even want to help your boys brainstorm Eagle Scout service ideas that will pull them out of their comfort zone, as they embrace cultural diversity.
Racism is real, but it doesn’t have to be.
Since my time as a youth, my desire to learn about other races and cultures has grown. I’ve loved sitting in a little middle Eastern restaurant eating grape leaves and falafel. I experienced awe walking into a Buddhist temple, watching as people bowed and muttered prayers. I found joy slaughtering several languages when speaking with strangers on the streets of L.A.
For youth, racist attitudes can shift as they have an opportunity to learn about the world around them. Rather than hatred, they will recognize a love for all people.