Posted: Jan 19, 2014 8:00 AM
 
Today is Martin Luther King Day and it's the perfect opportunity to start a family dialogue about race. Real moms shared with us what they taught their kids about race and how they're raising kids that look past color.

My mom had a major impact on how I see the world around me. Tolerance, embracing other races, ethnicities, even sexual orientations, were all purposefully threaded into how she raised us… even from a very young age. In preschool, my best friend was African American. Ceenie and I were neighbors, our families were friends and the issue of race, the shades of our skin color, were never even discussed. In one of my favorite photos of us — with our arms flung around each other and smiles stretched from ear-to-ear — we might have looked like an episode of Different Strokes, but we had everything else, that mattered, in common.

I'm grateful that my mom encouraged me to have friends that I learned from and loved for who they were inside, regardless of how we were different on the outside. While she raised me to look past color, she also made sure that I understood exactly how civil rights pioneers, like Martin Luther King, finally pushed our country forward to the point where Ceenie and I could swing our arms around each other in public and never have to think for a second that it wasn't OK.

With Martin Luther King Day coming up, we asked other moms what they're teaching their children about MLK and how they're raising their kids to embrace diversity.

Andrea Hulihan — Las Vegas, Nevada

They're family first.

Andrea, who comes from a blended family herself and is raising a biracial son, used Martin Luther King Day as a chance to read the book All Kinds of People to her son and share with him how, "while our family might be seen as black, white and a spectrum of browns on the outside... they're family first."

Sandy Hecht — Bozeman, Montana

Anyone can achieve their dream, no matter what stands in front of them.

"What I hope my kids learned from MLK is the importance of having a dream and that anyone can achieve their dream, no matter what stands in front of them." She also stressed that in her house, “My kids were raised to respect people for who they were, not the color of their skin. Racial slurs or jokes were never tolerated and I drew a hard line if they picked up something outside of the home that was disrespectful. When parents let those things go, they're endorsing them. We need to set the example.”

Brittney Smallwood — Chino Hills, California

We honor because he stood up for his beliefs and lead a movement for all people to be treated equally.

"I want my daughter to know that Martin Luther King was a man that we honor because he stood up for his beliefs and lead a movement for all people to be treated equally, regardless of color, or even gender. His work paved the way for civil and women's rights." She also added that while her daughter is still young, toys are one way they're introducing her to diversity. "We wanted her to have dolls beyond Barbie, like Dora and Doc McStuffins."

Tricia Mendes — West Palm, Florida

He was able to transform political issues and help end the racial divide, without ever resorting to violence.

"One of the most important lessons I want my kids to take from MLK is that he was able to transform political issues and help end the racial divide, without ever resorting to violence. His impact on our country was so huge, that every major U.S. city has a street or school named after him — including the street my son's magnet school was on. In fact, one of the reasons we sent our son to a magnet school was so he could be exposed to a more diverse group of students, make friends and share social experiences with kids that weren't just from our small neighborhood."

Related reading

Planting the seeds for a stronger family
How to teach your child manners
Learning about Kwanzaa: Unity, tradition and family

Topics: martin luther king jr