Should Mentor Programs consider Race when Connecting Mentors with Children – Yes

In this contemporary culture where we consider racial grouping to be a form of discrimination, it is important to remember that humans innately desire to be with others like themselves, no matter how open-minded we may be. Step into an unmonitored public place, and you’ll see the natural sociological event occurring: White people with whites, black people with blacks, Hispanics with other hispanics, and so forth.

There is a comfort level that can be found among our “own people” that remains, even if we feel that we are multiculturally enabled. With that fact in mind, it makes perfect sense to match teens with mentors of similar race. When it comes to finding the ability to relate, kids see more eye-to-eye with those from their own community, by far.

Think for just a moment: Picture yourself as an African-American male youth of about 13 years of age. You’ve signed up for a mentor program, and your greatest desire is to one day be an architect because you really like buildings. What if Mr. Bright-and-shiny Architect becomes your mentor, but he’s a very affluent Caucasian? He speaks with excessive annunciation of every syllable, and improper grammar would be an absolute sin in his world. His clothes are always professional, including tie and shiny Italian loafers. How comfortable do you suddenly feel with this guy? Moreover, would you relate better to a professional of your own race?

The answers here are pretty obvious. The races could be switched around and re-described any way and in any order, but the bottom line remains that teens connect better with mentors who have lived a life most similar to theirs. We may feel that we fully understand the lives and the traditions of alternative races, but when push comes to shove, we are indeed most familiar with our own background, in all complete honesty. Kids should not be required to feel any differently – they experience enough “diversity training” in public schools and extracurriculars, where acceptance of others’ differences is shoved down their throats day in and day out.

If a child is to fully enter a productive mentoring relationship, they foremost need to be completely at ease with the person who is mentoring them. The best way to ensure that is to find as many similarities as possible, and race is no exclusion. The sooner we use that fact to our advantage, the better off our future will be.