Teaching my kids to love the melting pot

for The Brooklyn Paper
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I am raising my children in New York City so that they will understand humankind, so that they might walk down the street and see two men kissing, or a woman in a burka, or a girl with an Afro, or people with pierced lips and tattoos, and not have to point and snicker at the differences that might elsewhere separate people. I want them to understand that underneath all the exterior packaging, we’re all essentially the same.

But in my joy over the varied breeds of Brooklyn, the foreign languages spoken, the accepted homosexuality, the many mixed-race kids, I sometimes forget to teach my kids that there is still sensitivities over differences. Much as people might want to stand out with their purple hair or (like me) many necklaces, there is always a part of us — adults and kids alike — that just wants to fit in.

Recently, a somewhat embarrassing (to me) incident at school with one of my kids made me realize that in the interest of pushing the “we’re all the same” agenda, I maybe haven’t done enough to point out the crucial sensitivity required in situations where someone could be singled out for being different.

This lesson of political correctness is difficult to teach and even harder to learn. You never know when a little joke about someone’s nose or hair or manner of speaking can make them feel isolated and alone. It is hard to make sure that your blase comment won’t blast another individual into that little lonely space capsule in their mind that says “no one is just like me.”

Growing up Jewish in Tucson, Arizona, I had plenty of moments when people made little, seemingly innocuous comments that made me feel like I was standing there with horns. My Catholic friend, who went to church every Sunday with hordes of other kids from our school, always rolled her eyes when I got upset over silly ribs like “Are you going to Jew ’em down?” to ask me about bargaining; or when people hammed up the hard “CH” sound in some spellings of “Chanukah,” as if only a Jew could really do it.

She wondered why I had to be so sensitive, and I’d try to explain, but how could I? I wanted to be the same as everyone else, not to have to wait around Sunday mornings for my friends to get home from church as I sat flipping channels through the sermons playing on my cable-less three-channel TV. I wanted an Easter basket and a Christmas tree. I didn’t want to explain why I fasted on Yom Kippur and have people look at me like an alien with three heads.

I still hate that “Who are you?” look. From an adult perspective I can see the merits of standing out and being more unique, but I can still feel quite keenly the issues that it raises.

In hindsight, I should have explained my religion more to my Christian friends, and been proud of my heritage, and had people over for Hanukkah and laughed at their poor pronunciation.

But it was hard to make myself feel a part of things if people always pointed out how I was separate. This is what I have to try to explain. I have to remind my boys about the sensitivities people have and how they have to be cognizant of them. It is a fine line, of course, since in pointing out differences we can often mistakenly create unnecessary divides. I walk that line so often with my many friends, hoping they have a sense of humor when I poke fun at language mistakes, and keeping my own sense of humor when they poke fun at America’s many foibles.

The common denominator, of course, is our humanity, and our great capacity for understanding one another, if we try. And that is what I have to remind my kids and myself: just try to understand what it’s like to be someone else, and how what you say and do might affect them.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on
Posted 12:00 am, November 7, 2013
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Reasonable discourse

S from Park Slope says:
What was the embarrassing incident at school?
Nov. 7, 2013, 11:16 am
Ted from Park Slope says:
Some of my friends, who were born and raised in Brooklyn, are absolute racists (that part about them makes me sick). Just sayin that growing your kids here isn't a guarantee they won't turn out to be complete douchebags. Though, I blame their parents more than the nabe, so maybe your kids will turn out well.
Nov. 7, 2013, 1:39 pm
Jbob from PS says:
You wanted your kids to be among diversity so you live in PS?? The rich white enclave of Brooklyn??

Your article beautifully articulates the BS liberal mindset. If you truly wanted to be among diversity, theres plenty of Brooklyn neighborhoods that actually fit the bill but of course theyre unlikely to fit the "safety" and "comfort" you and other white liberals require.
Nov. 7, 2013, 2:06 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
When you're jewish and you move to NYC, you are not celebrating diversity. Diversity was when you were back in Arizona.
Nov. 7, 2013, 2:26 pm
Beverly Sampson says:
I totally agree with the tone of this article. Very insightful. I felt the same way, so I took my children to go look at some Koreans. They were so charming, and the way they eat - at tiny child size tables, sitting on the floor. It was like an old fashioned screwball comedy! But very informative for them as well, seeing the Korean's melting pot. Or I believe it is called hot pot.
Nov. 8, 2013, 2:40 pm
Markus from Greater New York says:
Here is what multiculturalism is doing to other countries:

here is a clip of Swedes being attacked by an 'ethnic' mob:

and here is what ignorant PC elitist trash similar to this author have to say about it: fpm %28FrontPage Magazine %C2%BB All%29
Nov. 9, 2013, 11:52 am
mmhmmm from bklyn says:
Markus is seriously citing the White Nationalist, viciously racist/anti-Semitic "Daily Stormer" site?
Nov. 10, 2013, 12:59 pm

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