Chicago Tribune interviewed Dr. Maker about children’s fears of racism and terrorism in today’s world. Children are growing up in a very different environment today, as they are surrounded by incidents, news, and conversations related to racism and terrorism. It is difficult for parents and adults to have honest and reassuring conversations with children and teenagers on such complicated and charged topics. Nevertheless, it is important for us to address these issues with children, as kids need to air their questions and fears, or else they will continue to live in worry, confusion, and unknowns.
Chicago Tribune focused on a very important but related topic on specific fears expressed by Muslim children living in the U.S. The socio-political climate of anti-Muslim sentiment amidst fears of terrorism, places Muslim children in a unique position as they may be highly exposed to incidents of bullying and racism and/or may have considerable anxiety about being harassed for being Muslim. Simultaneously, these children may worry about speaking out and expressing their fears and reality, for fear of further rejection and retaliation.
The article and interview highlight important examples of how Muslim children may want to change their Arabic names and hide their religious affiliation for fear of bullying and negative fear based responses. The article also discusses how these children may worry about being deported or not seeing their international family members. Children may or may not bring these questions and incidents up with parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives, as many of us may avoid these difficult issues, not knowing how to respond in safe and assuring ways. The Chicago Tribune article provides some helpful ways that adults and parents can discuss these topics in healthy, child-appropriate ways.
As grown ups, it is our job to make ALL children feel safe, loved, and integrated, no matter what race, culture, and religion they identify with. Schools, parents, teachers, counselors, community leaders, and religious leaders need to take a leadership role and begin open dialogues, safe focus groups, and healing activities with children and teenagers. Teaching tolerance, acceptance, and integration of ALL our innocent children is vital for us to move forward as a community and nation with thriving children from varying cultures and faiths.