It was a conversation I never really wanted to have with my daughter. I didn’t want to have to plant the seed in her mind that anyone ever viewed another human being as being less than, simply because of the color of their skin. But when my little five-year-old girl came home from kindergarten one day talking about Martin Luther King Day coming up, and how she would have a long weekend, I knew I needed to ask her if she knew who he was. I felt like she needed to know that he was more than just a three day weekend from school. So, when I asked her if she knew who he was, she shook her head no, shrugged her shoulders, and then replied, “No, not really.”
So, I pulled her over to my lap and we looked him up on the computer together, and I started talking about the way things used to be before I was even born. Then I asked her if she understood what I was saying, or if she had any questions. Her answer made me so proud to be her mom. Her answer reassured me there is a way to bring children into this world who will never look at someone by the color of their skin and judge them because of it.
My daughter looked up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said, “But what is a black person, Mommy?” My daughter wasn’t even aware, even after the conversation we just had about bigotry and discrimination, a black person simply had different colored skin.
She didn’t understand that her very own preschool teacher was an African-American, she was always just Mrs. Stephanie. My heart broke because I did not want to tell her Mrs. Stephanie was different because her skin color was darker than ours, but I had to explain to her so she would know how reckless our society had once been, and actually, sadly still is in many ways today. I told her, “You know how Mrs. Stephanie’s skin tone is darker than our skin?“
She said, “I guess.“ Then I replied, “Her skin color is what some may define her as being a black person. Just like your skin defines you as being a white person. Can you ever imagine looking at Mrs. Stephanie and not liking her just because her skin tone is darker than your skin color?”
I watched her face and her jaw drop in sadness to learn that’s all being a black person meant, and knowing all Martin Luther King wanted was for all of us to look at each other like brothers and sisters, and put an end to senseless hatred. After our conversation, I pulled up his beautiful speech, and read it to her. It was difficult to read aloud without crying.
I grew up in the 70’s around a still fairly racist world, but all my childhood days I remained hopeful it would get better through the years, and one day we wouldn’t notice the color of someone’s skin, much less judge them for it. Sadly, this year, even in 2018, this ignorant form of hatred still exists.
I so badly wanted a better world for my daughter. The sad thing is I know it can be done. I know that kind of fear and hatred is taught. It’s taught at home. How can we ever have unity when hatred continues to be passed down from generation to generation?
I wish Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream had been a vision instead. I wish the different races would stop being threatened by one another and strive for understanding. I had hoped so much his dream would come true in my lifetime. I guess at least in my home I can say that it did.