It seems the big news reports are plastered with color today....but instead of vibrant photos of our hero's or multi generation reunions or student achievements....its a color war. Every negative situation is penned as black vs. white....red vs. brown....green vs. blue!
It brings back painful memories of the first time my oldest recognized Martin Luther King Day. She was in kindergarten.... only 5 years old. She wanted to know who he was....why he had a special day....and if we could bake him a cake (like we do on Christmas for baby Jesus). As I looked at my daughter...carefree and full of energy... I was speechless. While I fully understood the meaning of the day and valued what he accomplished for our country, it never occurred to me that I would have to explain it to my five year old.
She is fortunate enough to have a good amount of diversity among her friends....maybe not as much as some kids do but no doubt her friends do not all look like her.
But she doesn't see differences among the people in her life. Yes she is aware that some kids are shorter than her or darker skinned or need help walking or have trouble talking.... But in her eyes they are all normal....they are all just like her...they are all "kids".
I was afraid that if I explained how things used to be....how in some places they still are....that I would steal her beautiful view of the differences in the world. What if by telling her that some people think less of people who are different ....even treat them with hate and cruelty.... I would make her wonder if being different is bad. Ignoring her wasn't an option....she was waiting for an answer and can be quite determined....so with an emormonus knot in my stomach I did my best to explain. I told her that a long time ago...back when her great great grandma was a little girl.....some people thought that the color of a persons skin determined where they could sit on a bus...what school they went too...where they were allowed to eat. That back then some people were mean to people who had darker skin....really mean. I explained that things needed to change and Martin Luther King was someone who stood up for that change.
After taking a deep breath, I paused and waited for her to reply. What she said amazed me. First "well that doesn't make any sense....how could skin color matter...my arms are darker than my belly...that is just silly!". I laughed out loud...but then assured her that is how it was and that some people still believe it today. She got really quiet...slightly embarrassed I think...and said "if anyone ever acts like that....I promise I will stand up for change too" I almost cried!
What I learned from my girl is that our children truly are the key to a better future...one that will hold more love and acceptance than ours. It is up to each generation to raise kids that will grow up to have more peace in their world than we do. When it comes to human kindness....if we are honest with ourselves....we can always do better...be more loving...more accepting...more emphatic. Unlike adults, children come into this world loving everything and everyone....unless we teach them differently they will continue on that path. As a parent we have to teach our kids about the bad things in the world, while at the same time believing in them....that they will stand up for the change when needed. Help your children enjoy the color in their life - the reds, the blues, the browns....because the only color they see is crayola!