One of the most insidious and toxic forces in the world is the belief that some races are naturally better than others, or that one sex is inferior to another. Even if there were some slight biological differences that scientists were eventually able to prove in one domain or another—what exactly would it matter? Not only would every man, woman and race still share far more in common than they did differences, it would have absolutely zero bearing on who the individuals you meet in the course of a day (or a job interview) actually are as people. It shines no light on their potential, their character, their humanity.
That’s the thing about averages—they are really bad at telling you about individuals.
Intuitively, kids know this. As the comedian Denis Leary said many years ago, “Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” Kids don’t think about any of this stuff. They don’t make excuses, they don’t dog whistle, they don’t make distinctions between people. They just like everybody.
So it is from us, from our institutions, from our adult anxieties and close-mindedness, from our political policies and selfishness that this scourge is passed on from generation to generation. Which is why as they get older, you have to help maintain this youthful innocence in them. You have to help them carry that fire, that goodness.
It’s not enough to raise them to simply not be racist, either. You have to teach them how to stand up to and against racism. You have to fight against the status quo, you have to prevent them from regressing to the mean that has been with us too long.
We are on the front lines of this fight, every single one of us with children. We can help make a better world. We can make a difference and that difference starts at home.