A start to ending racial tension – kids

Let’s just get this out there. Writing about racial tension is risky and controversial. It is tied into our culture, history, politics, religion, and well… just about everything. It often feels like sitting down to a warm fresh baked cake and being asked to just pull out the flour.

As a community directly struggling in this, what can we do? How do we figure it out and talk about it? How do we heal from it?

Even with the struggle for answers, I want to live in a community that cares deeply about the issues that hurt any demographic of people where I live. Yet I don’t know how to address this or who I would talk to, or what I could do. 

Last summer, as I was still struggling with those questions, I overheard my kids with their neighborhood friends playing outside. They are joined at the hip for the better part of the year; they ride bikes together, dig for bugs, battle with lightsabers, all the things that kids do together. There started to be a bit of fighting, and then one of the boys got frustrated and accused one of the other kids of being racist, changing the rules of the game against him because his skin is black. 

I ran outside to talk to all the boys, to help them clear the air and understand what was going on. The situation was normal kid behavior, but the reality that our tension around race was impacting our children, saddened me and reinforced my desire to find an answer in how to be a part of a solution, and not the problem.

Discussing this with a few folks, we thought about all the positive environments and programs that cultivate relationships and bring common ground for our community and for the kids, to learn how to relate to each other. To learn how they are similar as humans and neighbors, not just how they are different. They dispel stereotypes because interaction with each other humanizes people. They cease being strangers and become friends.

Our Camden Community sports programs give kids from different backgrounds, race and cultures an opportunity to be a part of something together. They become a team, a unit that is working toward a common goal. The focus shifts from what makes them different to what makes them the same. It makes them brothers and sisters on a quest to defeat their opponent. That comradery changes the foundation of understanding and acceptance. Go to minneapoliasparks.org for info.

There are many Camden social groups that bring youth together. Boys to Men is one, and focuses on Northside youth (2nd through 9th grades). They give kids an afternoon activity every other Sunday. This group is about building positive relationships, character, strength and community among the young men of our neighborhood. It gives these boys a chance to be together, give back to the community and find out what interests they share. They focus on what makes them the same and build relationships from there. Check them out on Facebook.

Our local community garden has had kids vandalize the property in the past. However, there has been a strong push to provide healthy, structured activities for the kids to participate together in planting, growing, working and harvesting. They come together for events at the garden and with every positive interaction, they have a shared experience building a relationship, and finding common ground. 

These are just a few examples of many opportunities and programs that are provided in Camden. The idea that fear is born out of not knowing and not understanding, we need to provide our kids with opportunity to be in the community with one another building trust and relationships if we ever stand a chance of changing our story.

 A critically important key in all this is for our kids to see/hear their parents and other adults interacting positively with one another. Our kids filter all that we say and do. It is up to us to find a healthy way to discuss our differences. We have to ask ourselves what emotions our words carry when we discuss these things. These emotions set the stage for the conversations our children have as they walk in our streets and through their schools. It’s not the only solution, but it’s a start.