News reports released last week announced that Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter, is not black like she had previously claimed to be.
Citing interviews with Dolezal's parents, reports announced that Dolezal is white, but that she identifies as a black person and with black culture, according to Yahoo! News.
On Tuesday during an interview with the "Today" show, Dolezal discussed her personal journey exploring her racial identity, which led her to graduate from Howard University, a historically African-American college, with a degree in fine arts and claim her adopted black brother Izaiah as her own son.
In the interview, she said that she believed Izaiah would not view her as his mother if she was seen as white, according to Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy of Yahoo! News.
This upset some parents, like Trista Schroeder, who is a white mother of a black daughter.
“My whole family is predicated on my belief that a white mother can have black children,” Schroeder told Yahoo! News.
And many other Americans seem to agree. The Pew Research Center reported that 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were between spouses of a different races or ethnic group, which is more than double the amount in 1980 (6.7 percent).
Forty-four percent of Americans also say intermarriage is a societal change for the better, whereas 11 percent say intermarriages hurt society, and 44 percent say they make no change to society, according to Pew.
SEE MORE: The average American family no longer exists
So, how do parents talk to their children about racial diversity? Uffalussy suggests parents teach their children about the realities of race from a young age so they can understand it’s a part of everyday life, which may encourage their children to avoid racial stereotypes in the future and be more accepting of diversity.
In fact, the Yahoo! News reporter spoke to white, black, Latino and Asian families, and found an overwhelming theme: Every parent should talk to their child about race and make sure he or she is comfortable with diversity.
“People think that just because they have a child of color that they have to have these conversations, but it is every parent’s responsibility,” Kera Bolonik, a white mother, told Yahoo! News. “I believe that the fact that white people place the burden on people of color to educate us on how not to be a racist is that our parents didn’t prioritize this aspect of our education. … We introduced the conversation about race when our son was young — through conversation and books and cultural exposure.”
Christopher Metzler, Ph.D., one of the leading authorities on diversity, wrote for PBS that there are several strategies for parents when teaching their child about diversity. For one, children often follow in the footsteps of their parents, and that means adults should not make decisions based on racial stereotypes so that their children don’t develop the same habits, Metzler wrote.
Parents should also challenge their children to partake in community events of different ethnic groups that puts them out of their comfort zone. He also suggests that parents always answer the questions that children ask about racial diversity.
“When children ask about differences, start by listening to the question they are asking and the language they are using,” Metzler wrote. “If in asking questions about differences they are using hurtful or stereotypical language, explore with them why such language is hurtful. Explain in an age-appropriate manner why stereotypes don't tell the whole story and are divisive.”
Psychologists Sonia King and Evan Apfelbaum wrote for The Atlantic in 2012 that parents may want to make sure their children have empathy, which will help children develop kind feelings and thoughts for people of other races or ethnic backgrounds.
And they opine that parents should reward their children for embracing another diverse culture, which will make them more likely to practice acceptance in the future, The Atlantic reported.
“If you see him interacting with people from different groups or demonstrating concern for the fair and equitable treatment of others, let him know that this makes you proud,” the researchers wrote for The Atlantic. “If you show your child that equality is important to you, he'll follow in your footsteps.”
Interracial marriages on the rise, but social stigmas persist
How is the media affecting race relations in America?
The numbers behind America’s growing diversity and multiracial marriages
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.