Five Things I Want My Kids to Know on MLK Day

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I’m a white woman raising a black niece and two biracial sons, but we don’t talk about race at home.

We’ve shielded them from the recent racial tensions in our country. We don’t talk about Ferguson at the dinner table.

My five-year old says daddy is “brown,” and that sums up about all he knows. We’ve chosen to let our kids develop their own self-concepts without the labels of “white,” or “black.” Because last time I checked my sons are both.

My kids don’t recognize skin color as relevant information to any conversation. They don’t see race as a differentiator.

I don’t think my children are the only ones who are naïve to race. And this gives me so much hope. Without the color concern, racism could die in their generation.

It sounds so idealistic until I take a walk with my niece and hear her startled questions.

When I ask her if she knows what race means, she hasn’t a clue. I get the same answer when I ask her if she remembers Martin Luther King, Jr.

Apparently, she wasn’t listening to me this time last year. So we walk and talk. And I begin to grasp for the right words.

I don’t want her to live with her head in the sand. I want her to know about the Civil Rights Movement without reliving the pain or implanting fear.

We talk about segregation and how grandma wasn’t allowed to attend school with black children when she was a girl.

“But that’s wrong, auntie,” she says, and I nod and segue into why MLK day is a holiday. We talk about Jim Crow laws and Rosa Parks.

But that’s not all I tell her.

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  • I tell her that she lives in a better world than the one I grew up in, where subtleties of racism existed everywhere and were felt by everyone.
  •  I tell her the hue of her skin doesn’t mean anything in terms of what she can accomplish.
  •  I explain how she can live beyond others’ preconceived ideas and that I want her to live untethered by conventions. May she never allow herself to be defined by a “gap,” whether it’s race or gender.
  • I tell her racism still exists and like any other sin it begs for grace, redemption and a love that “covers a multitude of sin,” (1 Peter 4:8).
  • I want her to know that racism isn’t an American problem but a human problem and that there’s a cure. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:28 NLT).

 

She listens, and I see the question sprout on her face. She wants to know more about grandma and segregation. “But that happened so long ago,” she concludes.

I start to explain how 60 years ago wasn’t that long, but I realize that to her, it feels like ancient history.

And this, too, gives me hope.

 

9 thoughts on “Five Things I Want My Kids to Know on MLK Day

  1. Trish, no doubt I am having an emotional day … So, your story and words have made me shed more tears. I cry because I know that even racism can be covered by grace. I cry because my kids also know shades of brown and cream and not black and white. I cry because your niece’s smile is so darn cute. I too look forward to a time when there is no gap for any child under the sun.

  2. Trisha,

    My God bless you, I am white and raised a biracial son, and today he has two attractive girls my granddaughters. Since his mother died, in 2006, I have remarried a Chinese lady and a beautiful Christian.

    Dr. George

    Retired and now living in China

  3. You are right it was not so long ago. I am a 64 year old white female that grew up in Atlanta, Ga. where all the racial strife was going on. In 1956 (I was 6 years old) I remember crying because I was not allowed to use the restroom at a service station. There were three restrooms men, women and colored. The only one empty was the colored and my Mom would not let me use it. I really had to go bad. Also I had a dear friend in my neighborhood that we both had to play with each other in secret because we were each different colors. Still makes me sad today. I love the picture of you and your niece and the way you were talking with her. Praise God!

    • Ann, thanks for sharing these stories. They make me said and remind me of just how far this country has come. We may have many more miles to walk, but I believe we’re making progress. Maybe that’s me being an optimist again, but hey…

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