E. B. White, essayist, literary stylist, and author of children’s classics, The Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little, and Charlotte’s Web, once said, “Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.”
This is often how I feel when I hear parents complain because their children want to date someone of a different culture, race, or religious background. Rather than getting to know this person for who they are and what they mean to the child involved, they make snap judgments based upon what they think they know of that particular culture, race or religion. Why is it that we are so afraid of those who are different from ourselves?
As parents who are interested in the healthy and well-being of our children, we should be more concerned with how our children are treated by their boyfriends/girlfriends, their values and their views on relationships than we should the color of their skin or their cultural and religious differences.
As an example, I want to share with you some information about two of my daughter’s male friends. Granted, she is not dating either of them at this time; however, she did date one in the past. [When they both went off to college, they decided that it would be better to part as friends rather than to attempt to maintain a dating relationship at a distance.] I am going to rename these gentlemen Jarrod and Michael.
My daughter has known Jarrod for three years. She knew that he was smart – making very good grades – and that he was artistic – musically inclined. Both were admirable qualities for her, since she is very grade-conscious and a musician herself. They really didn’t get to know each other personally until their senior year, when they began to talk occasionally. The summer after graduation, they began to share more about themselves. The conversations were in-depth about their values and their thoughts on marriage, sex, drugs and alcohol, etc. Jarrod comes from a large family that possesses a strong family bond and religion is a solid part of their lives. He informed my daughter that he had a lot of respect for her decision to wait until she was married before having sex. My daughter felt that there was a real connection. Then he stopped talking to her. She didn’t understand what had happened and when she continued to push the issue, she finally got an answer. Even though their conversations had been give-and-take, Jarrod informed her that his friends that were girls understood that in order to have serious conversations with him, they had to send him pictures of themselves. Not just ordinary pictures – suggestive, seductive photos in which they were scantily – if at all – clothed. My daughter informed him that she would not do that, so she guessed they were not friends. He said that would make them associates. She asked what that meant and he told her that he would admit he knew her, but that they wouldn’t talk anymore. She told him that she wouldn’t be his “associate” either because friendship didn’t come with a price tag.
My daughter had known Michael for at least six years. She was introduced to Michael through his brother. They have talked at school, on the phone and through text messages for a long time. They dated briefly, but the times during which my daughter has felt the closest to him was when they would go to one of the local parks to walk and talk. Often they would wind up sitting at a picnic table for an hour or more, sharing their thoughts, hopes and concerns for the future. Not “their” future together – but their own separate goals and dreams. They encourage each other to follow their dreams and set their goals high. When they are down, they know there is someone there who understands and will listen. When they are happy, they know there is someone who will celebrate with them. It has not been a perfect friendship. They attempted to date; however, Michael was not ready for dating and they realized they made much better friends. They do care for each other deeply and perhaps one day they will date, but if they never do, they will always have a good and solid friend whenever they need one. There is no price tag on their friendship. There are no strings attached. They genuinely care about each other and will always be there for each other as friends, whether they ever date or not. Michael respects my daughter with more than just lip service; he would never dream of asking her to do anything like Jarrod’s request. [In fact, when he did want to kiss her, he asked her first if it was okay.]
I want to ask all of you – mothers and fathers – which young man would you rather your daughter date? Oh, yes, you are right – this is a trick question. Answer honestly anyway.
My daughter is white and both of these young men are black. Their attitudes, their actions, their beliefs and the way they choose to treat women has nothing to do with their race. In fact, it has nothing to do with their family background, their choice of religion or their cultural values. It has to do with their own personal choices and their own personal views. You cannot get to know someone if you allow the color of their skin, their religious choice, or their cultural background stop you before you ever say, “Hello.”
I know a young lady who married the “perfect man”, as far as her family was concerned. He was from a good family, dressed well, had obtained a degree, landed a great job and bought his new wife a wonderful house as a wedding present. He went to the same church as this young lady’s family and spend every Sunday at dinner with her family or his. It was the perfect life. Or was it? There were no racial, cultural or religious differences between the two. This young lady made the “perfect” wife – she took care of the house, agree to start a family immediately, and always had dinner on the table when her husband walked in the door at the end of the day. He allowed her to work part-time, with an agreement that she would stay at home upon the birth of their first child, which she did. What no one saw, could fathom, or knew until it was too late, was that this man – for all his perfection on the surface – was a control freak and an abuser behind closed doors. It started off with verbal abuse, but quickly elevated to physical abuse. She would avoid her family to keep them from seeing the bruises and the black eyes. After the birth of her first child, she allowed him to beat her exactly one time. When he went to work the next day, she packed up her child, went home to her parents and filed a police report. Everyone was in shock! No one could believe this was happening and did not want to believe that this was not the first time – until she produced the photos from previous incidents and the emergency room reports from all the times she had “fallen down the stairs,” “ran into a door,” or some other contrived act of clumsiness.
I would much rather my daughter marry a man that was good to her, respected her and would never harm her, and loved her with truth though he be a different race, religion or cultural background than I would her marry a man of the identical race, religion and cultural background who abused her emotionally, verbally or physically – or simply did not respect her.
When you get upset about who your child chooses to date, please consider this. Get to know the person before you make a judgment. Talk to your child and find out what they see in this person that you don’t. Then discourage or encourage dating based on what is important – respect for your son and daughter and themselves, kindness, compassion, understanding, acceptance and truth. Protect your child fiercely, as all parents should, but make sure that you are protecting them from the “right” circumstances.