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.
- 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.