1992: When I was 4, my sister and I went to a preschool in Palm Desert while our family was on vacation there. Presumably this was to keep us busy and prevent us from spending all of our time at the pool.

I made friends with this girl named Hailey, and we became playmates during recess. Things were going great for about a week.

Then, out of the blue, she came up to me and said, “My mom says I can’t be friends with you.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“My mom says I can be friends with Chloe, because she’s American, and you’re not.”

I kept this event to myself until we got home to Newport later that spring, and cried to my mom about what happened. I remember feeling shame, and not understanding why. Quite an experience for a 4 year-old.

It’s 25 years later and this memory has not left me. Prejudice and stereotypes are still very much alive in our world, and unfortunately are part of what make us human. (Listen to the Inquiring Minds podcast episode – The Science of Prejudice to learn more.) However, we can take active measures to reduce their impact and reconfigure our world into one of respect, dignity and empowerment. It starts with awareness.

I’m so grateful to have been raised by two self-made parents, both incredibly strong and encouraging in their own right, who have done nothing but support the aspirations of their children. One happens to be brown and one happens to be white.

I hope Hailey’s mother understands the implications of her words to her daughter all those years ago, how they perpetuate division and fear.

I challenge you to teach your children there is another way, one of community and inclusion. Because we are all human, and all human beings should feel safe and empowered in pursuit of their dreams.

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