Acceptance and Integration: How Familiarity Breeds Tolerance

As a positive parenting advocate, I’m glad Camp Fire is a part of our communities. Camp Fire can be counted on to continue with many of the tried-and-true ways, like setting up a tent in the great outdoors and bonding with nature. When the organization was originally founded back in 1910, campers in the woods may have been frightened by bats or bears. But also in this distant past, what many children were afraid of were those from different races and religions, who were segregated from the general population. In the calm, rational light of day, we find that bats, bears, and the “other” rarely pose a threat, then or now.

Let’s face it—racism and intolerance are mostly based in fear, which is a learned behavior often acquired through ignorance and separation. Thankfully the world has become more connected and we’ve come a long way since the days of our great-grandparents, but we still have quite a way to go. That’s why it’s so important to put our children in an environment where they’re introduced to many different cultures, so they can embrace these differences rather than fear them.

Tragedies such as the 9/11 attacks, although more than fifteen years ago, caused a wide divide against Muslim Americans, including those who had no actual ties to terrorism—many of them born in the Untied States. Again, fear overtook the general population and those who worshipped differently were chastised, belittled, and criticized for their religious beliefs.

Education and integration are the keys in these types of situations. Let’s look at a little-known movie, The Space Between, released almost a decade after the tragedy. Since the trailer and description of the film divulge this much, a spoiler alert probably isn’t necessary.

Two Different Worlds Embrace Many

A quick online synopsis of the film reveals “A world-weary flight attendant, and Omar Hassan, a prematurely wise 10-year-old Pakistani-American boy connect with one another amidst the chaos of September 11, 2001.” Okay, here’s where we’ll disclose a little bit of a SPOILER ALERT that should not ruin the movie but rather prove a valuable point.

The lead female character, who is tasked with escorting a Muslim boy cross-country after the 9/11 tragedy would best be described as single, bitter, childless, and mostly cut off from society, despite her worldly travels. On the other hand, the extremely intelligent young boy has only known New York City and the love of his father. Bottom line: the interaction between the two create an unbreakable bond when they overcome many obstacles during their journey together.

Journeys and Destinations

Many would say it’s not the destination but the journey. And in this case, especially considering our current cultural landscape, it’s actually a little bit of both. The journeys and experiences we have had in the past have led us to this, our greater destination.

In our diverse and changing landscape, our children are bonding and growing up with those of different racial, religious, cultural, and other diverse backgrounds. They’re being taught at an early age to be more accepting and less judgmental because we’ve come out of the darkness. It’s not as if this is a lesson plan that has been laid out before them, but rather an experience of friendship and bonding with those who are different from them. And SPOILER ALERT: that is a good thing for us all.

Article by Amy Kristine Williams – mother of two, social worker, and positive parenting advocate.