Tolerance, Respect & Kindness

By Sara-Lynne Levine June 4, 2020

When my son Jonah was in two year old preschool, he had a good friend named Sam. Jonah came home from school one day and said "Mommy, Sam is brown." Yes, he is," I replied. "I am not brown," said Jonah. "No," I said, "You are white." Why," said Jonah? 

My answer, to this day, came out of instinct.  "You know how Big Bird is yellow, Elmo is red and Cookie Monster is blue? They are all different colours but they are all still friends." Jonah got my answer, didn't bat an eye and in that answer I realized that being honest and sharing your beliefs in a way a kid can understand would serve everyone well in the future.

Jonah is now at university. He has friends of all colours, races, backgrounds and orientations. His younger brother, in middle school is the same. People are people and it doesn't matter what they look like or where they come from. That's how we live our life and that's what we have taught our kids. 

The issues surrounding race that have been brought to the forefront in the United States this week has been heartbreaking to watch. Both my kids were born in the States. We lived in Southeast for over a decade and are deeply connected to the people there. 

I've struggled to figure out what to say about what is happening. I'm not black and I cannot understand the black experience. But, I am a person and I know this isn't the way you treat anyone, full stop.  

Over dinner this week we tried to explain white privilege to our middle school son. I don't worry when he goes out and rides his bike, goes for a jog or hangs out in a park with friends. I don't fear for his safety from police officers. I cannot imagine the terror for the mothers (and fathers) who have to go through this experience. 

Even in writing this article, I'm not sure I'm hitting the right tone. I don't want to be preachy, I'm trying to be empathetic. I'm struggling with my words to share how sad I am feeling, how badly I wish things were different and how I stand in solidarity and support with the black community wanting things to be better for all people.

What can I do? What can we do? How can we help? My answer (at least for today) is to teach our children tolerance, respect and kindness. Listen to others who know more and want to share their stories and help spread positivity and love.