Q: Is it even possible for our culture to heal from decades, even centuries, of racial inequality? Can different races really come together to champion the dignity of all people?
Jim: My African American friends and colleagues tell me that I have no idea what it's like to be a Black person in this country. I believe that's true. However, I do feel that I understand the depth of racial tension in our country better than many in the white community. I lived a couple of years of my childhood in Compton, California, in the late 1960s and early '70s. I've never been harassed because of my skin color, but I've witnessed racial issues up close and personal.
It seems impossible some days, but I believe there is hope. Healing can occur in the area of racial inequality under two conditions: Number one, people's hearts must change. And number two, we must restore the institution of the family to prominence and priority.
A change of heart is necessary because you can't force people to respect each other or see each other's value and dignity. Racism will only truly end when people are willing to bear one another's burdens and seek justice for all.
You also can't build a society of respect and understanding with broken families. When marriages break apart, values fall through the cracks. Children grow up without role models who teach them to respect people who are different from them.
The government can and should pass laws to protect against racism, but laws are powerless when it comes to the human heart. If we hope to create a better future for our children and our grandchildren, our hearts must change, and we must live out the virtues of justice and humility every day. The end of racism begins at home.
Q: My ex-husband left the family when I was three months pregnant and hasn't been in touch since. Lately my preschooler has been asking why his dad doesn't live with us. What should I tell him?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Your preschooler has asked a great question! It wasn't supposed to be this way, so naturally your son wants to know the "why." Preschoolers try to understand the world by looking at what other kids are experiencing and relating it to their own environment.
First, ask your son why he thinks his dad is not living with the family, and listen attentively. Then respond lovingly to his perceptions. Make sure to provide safety and trust to talk about feelings connected to his dad's absence. Let your son's ongoing questions guide the amount of detail he's ready for as he grows -- and emphasize that it's OK to talk about his feelings at any time.
Despite his absence, your ex-husband is still the boy's father -- so it makes sense that your son is curious and wants to fill information gaps to learn about his own identity. Tell him about his father's interests and background. Show him pictures.
The beauty of life is that there is always room for grace, redemption, resets and restoration. You want to be honest, yet respectful and hopeful. Help your preschooler know that his father has made a decision and, for now at least, will not be returning. That choice was not your boy's fault, and he needs reassurance of that truth.
Meanwhile, your son still needs to have positive male influences while he grows up -- coaches, mentors, pastors, teachers and hopefully extended family. Seek out stable men who can share guidance from a masculine perspective as your son matures.
If you'd like to discuss this situation at greater length, feel free to call our caring counselors at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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