The Labels We Teach Our Children

Over breakfast at my mother’s house on Sunday morning, my two sisters, one of their partners, my niece, my mother and I were chatting and somehow we came upon the topic of nationality. My older sister proudly asked her daughter “what are you?”. Expectedly confused by this question, my niece just giggled. As she continued to prod, wanting to show that she’s obviously taught my niece her heritage , my sister asked again… “What are you?” to which my niece replied “I am a person!”. While everyone sitting around the table laughed at how cute her answer was, my heart radiated with love and gratitude. A child so oblivious to the turmoil in the world outside of her kindergarten, responded in a way every person on this planet should when asked the same question – she was a person. Not a colour, not a race, not a religion. Reveling in the happiness of such a beautifully innocent reply, eyes glistening with pride, I came to realise this was a defining moment in my nieces life. This is where we had the chance to teach her to always believe in and speak of equality. The chance to teach her to treat others with respect, despite their differences. Before the words could come out of my mouth, commending her for having so much wisdom for a 5 year old, my sister quickly corrected her daughter. “Well yes you are a person but that’s not what you are, you are half and half what?” Confusedly, my nieces cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment, as she stared at her mother waiting to be told what she was and, as sure as the sun, my sister  imparted what she believed was valuable knowledge to her daughter. It was in this moment my niece was being taught to label who she was and identify herself not as a person, but by a “race”.  As they continued to laugh and eat their breakfast, the disbelief washed over me like mud; dark, heavy and full of unwanted crap.

With all the destruction in the world right now, it makes very little sense to me how people don’t understand why these awful things are happening, constantly blaming, stereotyping, failing to see that the cause of it is us. In things like teaching our children to label themselves and others as a colour, as part of a religious group, as part of a race. We are not born to see differences, we are not born knowing what nationality we are or what language we are meant to speak or which God we should believe in. We are taught difference where difference never existed. The media brainwashes us, our parents discipline us, our schools falsely educate us, our peers bully us, our friends define us. We lose our belief in humanity, formulating our opinions built on foundations passed down through negativity. It does nothing but breed judgement, racism and inequality. For as long as we are blinded by our differences, we remain separated, and for as long as division exists, there will be conflict, not only around us, but within our hearts. The fact that we are all unique makes us exquisite not wrong or unwanted. Forgive me for failing to see logic or pride in defining myself or judging another person by where they are born or what they believe in. To me, how much beauty we see in the world, is a reflection of how beautiful our own hearts are and the willingness we have to change our ways to become what the world needs right now in order to heal.




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