Talking to kids about Charlottesville will shape sense of justice, not steal innocence

 The author is shown with her son. (Image courtesy of Stefanie Nicolosi)

The author is shown with her son. (Image courtesy of Stefanie Nicolosi)

I find that I am relieved that my child isn’t old enough to have to explain these hateful events to him and why they’re wrong. I don’t have to, because these aren’t concepts he can grasp yet. He has yet to experience hate as emotion.

As Nelson Mandela once stated, and was re-shared by our former president Barack Obama:

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. 

Events such as those in Charlottesville need to be discussed with our children, however, as soon as they are able to comprehend. Parents worry about stealing their children’s innocence or shy away from tackling such loaded topics. But their innocence is your greatest tool in shaping them.

The younger they are, the more likely they are to still have a firm belief that everything in life should be fair and just. And the more likely they’ll be to insist that it should be just that. If you do not shape them, others will. Teach them to be a voice to oppose hate and a force of love.

As my son grows older, I can only hope to nurture and cement in him the inherent tendencies children have to love and be blind to differences. I was blessed to have been raised this way myself. I remember crying when my mother read me a book about a little boy who wasn’t allowed to play with another little boy because the one was black and the other was white. I cried because that was just so mean, and my mother told me that circumstances ( racial segregation and racism) in the book had really happened, and some people still thought it was ok. I remember my poor little heart being crushed even over these, the most mild of injustices suffered during and before the Civil Rights movement.

I was particularly affected, because at the age of 4, when she read it to me, my best friends were Monique (black) and Zoe (Asian). This was such an impactful memory, I can still vividly recall the deep sadness that anyone should be treated like that.

I feel that same sadness most everyday I read or listen to the news now. But I am sadly no longer as shocked as my younger self once was at the reality. I hope to raise my children to change this reality as I strive to. I plan to start to do this by talking about the issues.

Photographer Stefanie Nicolosi lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, child, and attention-needy cat. She believes in activism and giving back to the community, and above all hopes to raise a good and caring human.

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