A mother and son have turned a racial joke into a learning opportunity.
Dianne Doyle Lynch posted a five-minute video on how words can hurt and acceptance is needed after her nine-year-old son, Jalen, heard racial comments in the lunchroom of an Okotoks school in late January.
“My oldest son (Jalen) was witness to a pretty rude and racially-fueled joke at the lunch table and he felt the need to stand-up and say: “You can’t make fun of black people, it’s not funny. My dad’s black and I am black,’” said Doyle Lynch.
Jalen told his parents – Dianne is white, Glenn is black – and the result was Doyle Lynch making her video. She also set up talks with the Okotoks school’s administration (she did not wish to name the school).
She was pleased with the school’s fast and effective action.
“They brought my son in to talk about the situation and they assured him they loved and supported him and his brother at the school — that the school is inclusive and that everyone is welcomed,” she said. “The most important thing for my children was they know they are no less than anyone else.
“The school had their back, which made us at peace with this.”
Ironically, the racially-charged statement came from a friend of Jalen’s — and they are still friends.
Jalen accepted the student’s apology.
“He (Jalen) didn’t feel like he was being personally attacked,” Dianne said. “He was sad that he had to hear friends laughing about skin colour. He inspired me to reach out and talk to people because of how strong he is.”
Dianne was inspired to make a five-minute video a mother’s plea, which she posted on Facebook Jan. 31.
“My plea was that parents’ talk to their children and people talk to each other,” she said. “Stop looking at differences as a bad thing, but acknowledge our differences make us beautiful people and a beautiful society.”
She added Okotoks is becoming more diverse.
“Everybody needs to feel they are not just tolerated here, but celebrated – that is where I was coming from,” she said.
Her Facebook message hit the mark, it had 242 likes, hearts or sad faces as well as 184 shares and 111 comments as of Feb. 6.
“I had never done a Facebook message like that,” she said. “I felt if it was delivered face-to-face — as much as it can be face-to-face – that my words weren’t being read, but they were being heard, maybe people would feel differently than if it was just in an article people skim over.”
She said the message was made after a sleepless night.
“I never expected this to get this much attention.”
Glenn was also proud of his wife and son.
“My initial reaction was “Where in the world did they get this from?’” Glenn said. “I was very proud of Jalen – the way he reacted and treated it. Because back in the day, when I was younger, I would have handled it very different.”
He agreed the Okotoks school incident could be an educational tool.
“The child didn’t know any better,” Glenn said. “It brings to light that some parents have to explain that there are differences and some things just aren’t proper to say.
“It’s good for Jalen to talk to his friends about it and it’s good for his friends to see that it offended him, so they won’t be doing it again. They are still friends.”
He was awestruck by Dianne’s video.
“I came from an era that you know change is going to come, but you don’t say anything — that hopefully it will change,” Glenn said. “For her to do this, it takes a lot of bravery and she was able to voice mine and her frustration. I am very proud of her.”