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05 August 2008

When do we learn to hate?

I was at work the other day (it was actually a few weeks ago, but I've just now had the opportunity to write about it), and I witnessed a truly amazing, adorable, and thought-provoking scene. It really got me thinking about our culture and race relations.

I was in the front of the store, happily greeting clients as they came in. Clients often shop with their kiddies, and it is fun to see their happy and mischievous little faces as they look around. A small Korean family entered the store with an ADORABLE little boy. He was probably two or three. Old enough to walk around on his own but not really talking all that much. He hung out with his dad in my area as his mom shopped. He played in the clothing and Dad kept a close eye on him. About five minutes after they entered the store, another mom and child (Caucasian) entered. The boy she had with her was about the same age as the little Korean boy, and, as soon as the two little boys saw each other, they stopped dead in their tracks and smiled.

They were instantly friends. They sat down beside each other on the floor and "talked" in their own little language. They walked around together and held hands. They played in the racks as their parents watched over them. They made fast friends and were quite the chums. When one mom picked up her son to keep him from causing trouble, the two little boys reached for each other and cried out. It was heartwarming and sweet. I watched them for as along as I could before the duties of Sales Lead came rushing back to me.

I haven't been able to shake the image of these two boys. I really wonder, "When do we learn to hate?" At what age do we learn that skin color is an acceptable basis for judgement? At what point in our lives do we stop making friends simply to make friends and start making friends that fit into a certain mold? We all know that racism and prejudice is instilled early on from our families, our culture, and our society, but when does it really take hold? Clearly these two little boys hadn't been indoctrinated into the racism of our culture (and I hope that they never are!), but I found myself wondering when it would happen. Rather than simply watching two little boys play together in a women's clothing store, I observed a Korean boy playing with a Caucasian boy with no boundaries or pre-set rules. This scene should not have amazed me so. It shouldn't have made me so happy inside. It should be regular and ordinary.

But it's not. All too soon these boys will learn that you "stay with your own kind" and you don't trust those who are different from you. Will they be that way next year? In two years? In six months? When will their open-mindedness and loving natures be suddenly directed only to those who share the same pigmentation and cultural heritage?

I think about these little boys a lot. They really make me wonder about our culture and how race functions. I also wonder if it will ever change. I pray to God that it does and that these little boys will be an example for the rest of us.
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