With Black History Month upon us, my wife and I decided it's a good time to talk about how we celebrate Black history, not only in February but throughout the year.
Appreciating diversity has been a core value in our marriage since day one, partly due to necessity. I'm an American, born and raised in rural West Tennessee. My wife immigrated here from rural southern Mexico. Growing up in a diverse community was a blessing for me. And as a couple, we want celebrating diversity to be part of our family DNA.
Here's how we make celebrating diversity a priority in our marriage. (It won't hurt our feelings if you steal a few of these ideas for yourself!)
We get to choose the friends we want to be in our lives. And those friends often become family. We surround ourselves with people from different ethnicities on purpose, and we're thankful to have a diverse friend group. We've often celebrated the holidays with Haitians, Jamaicans, Central Americans and those from different parts of the U.S.
OUR KIDS' SCHOOL
Passing on this appreciation for diversity to the next generation is crucial to us. Fortunately, we live in a place where we can choose the school our kids go to. We chose a downtown school for our son and daughter that celebrates various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. This means when our kids are at school, they experience the richness of other cultures and learn from each other.
MEDIA WE CONSUME
Where you spend your time and money shows what you value. We choose to promote diversity through the media we consume, whether it's music, movies or TV. We've watched films together that celebrate Black history, like "42," "Black Panther" and "Hidden Figures." Most streaming services have a curated list of movies and shows that promote Black voices. It would be easy to choose one night a week to watch one of these movies or documentaries and talk about them. I've gotta warn you, though: As you develop this habit, you'll start asking why some shows aren't as diverse as others, and so will your kids.
VOICES WE LISTEN TO
There are tons of voices vying for our attention. Here's the thing: We can only listen to voices who sound like us, look like us and come from where we do. Or we can choose to also listen to those who sound, look and believe differently. We try to listen to and understand others. Broadening who and what we listen to often shows us we have a lot more in common with others than we ever thought.
We look at the calendar to be more aware of ethnic holidays and events like Black History Month. Then we talk to our kids about what they mean because we don't want them to be afraid or unaware. If our kids ask a question and we don't know the answer, we say we don't know. And we're OK with that. Then we learn together. It's that simple.
ENGAGING WITH CULTURES IN OUR COMMUNITY
Finding and going to cultural festivals in the area throughout the year is a fun way to learn. (Date idea!) These are great (and sometimes free) chances to learn about other ethnicities in your community and beyond! You can usually enjoy some fantastic food and unique music while meeting people who are passionate about sharing their culture. (Bonus: Kids will be ready for a nap when you leave. Oh yeah!)
Valuing diversity makes our marriage and family richer. Our kids see this, and they live it out in their friend groups, the athletes and musicians they enjoy and the media they consume. Bridging the racial gap is a generational choice for us. Keeping the conversation going in our marriage is an essential part of leading our family and promoting diversity in the next generation.
We're all different, and that's OK. Let's celebrate our uniqueness.
Mitchell Qualls is the operations director at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.