Teaching Tolerance – A Parenting Decision

My father was a racist.  I love my father and miss him still, even though he’s been gone for many years, but that does not change the facts.  He was a racist.  There’s a parenting decision, though, that made him different than your run of the mill bigot.  It’s a very good thing.

My father realized that while his views were not uncommon in small town Alabama when he was growing up, times had changed. His children were not growing up in the 1940’s, nor were his children in that little town in Alabama. Our own town was becoming more racially diverse, et cetera. For him to teach bigotry to his children would have been a disservice to us.

He made a point of not spreading his bigotry to his children.

So how does a bigot teach tolerance? Through careful moments of quiet embarrassment.

I remember hearing my father use the “n” word when I was small. I also remember him teaching us that it was a bad word, and a time came when he stopped using that word himself.

Racism isn’t genetic.  Hatred is not a family value.  Bigotry is taught the same way that tolerance is taught: a series of parenting decisions that may more may not have the consequences intended.  My father could have very easily raised a bunch of little future bigots who proudly pushed their bigotry on other people.  While he himself did not change his views, he did his best to encourage us to be not like him.  He also insisted that children were to be exempted from whatever racism their parents may experience.

It’s strange and confusing, but it just goes to show that it is entirely possible to make a conscious parenting decision to end racism.

Have you seen bigotry in your own family?  How did your family prevent the spread of bigotry?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. Our parents taught us to be more tolerant than they are. I was shocked to learn that about them too

  2. Tolerance is a great lesson to teach children! I commend you for this 🙂

  3. Savannah Miller says:

    My parents did not do very much parenting if that make sense…. My grandmother pretty much shaped me into the person I am today. And she was not bigotry at all. She always taught me that no 2 people are alike and I should judge each person as an individual and not as a group.


  1. […] like to think that I’m a fairly tolerant person.  I know that my own parents did a lot to teach me to be more tolerant than they themselves were.  I think that taking a stand against […]

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