Martin Luther King, Jr

When and how do you talk to your kids about race?

This is a question several friends have asked on Facebook lately. There is no ‘right answer,’ but a lot of suggestions and ideas. I definitely don’t have the ‘right answer,’ but race is something that my family is pretty open about. Starting with skin color. How could it not come up, Boomer is quite obviously a different color from the rest of us. Supergirl started with the questions quite a while ago. She always uses the term ‘brown skin’ and that is still what she uses. Boomer has his own questions, for instance, why are his palms a different color than his arms. He likes his color, he tells me it helps him be camouflaged when he wants to hide. We have discussed how we look different, why we look different, what makes us the same as other families, what makes us different. But that’s all different than the topic of racism.
Racism was not a topic that came up naturally (not yet at least). I did, however, want it to be something they were aware of. I wanted to talk about it BEFORE they blatantly encountered it. Last year I bought Supergirl this book:

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
I cried the first time I read it to her. It is hard to explain prejudice and hate to a 4-year-old. She didn’t understand why people would treat others so unfairly. She loves the book and we still read it often. Yesterday someone posted the “I have a dream” speech on Facebook. I asked Supergirl to watch it with me–she was surprised to see white faces in the crowd. We again discussed racism and hate and that not everyone is like that—even then. Boomer watched part of it and asked and I tried to explain it in very simple terms for him. That there was a time that people were not allowed many places because of their skin color. And that this man we were watching knew that wasn’t fair and told people it wasn’t fair and worked very hard to make things fair and right.

Today on the ride home from school we had this conversation:
Boomer: Mom, do you remember that guy King…. The guy that had King in his name?
Me: Martin Luther King?
Boomer: Yeah, did you know he was dead? That somebody shot him? (apparently he was told this by a peer at school today who must have ALSO learned about Martin Luther King yesterday)
Me: Yes, I knew that
Boomer: But why would they do that?
Me: Well, because there were people who didn’t want things to be fair, who didn’t want things to change. And he was working really hard to get things to change.
Supergirl: Yeah, because he had a dream. That’s what he said. ‘I have a dream that someday…’ and then I can’t remember the rest. ‘I have a dream that someday all people can ride on a bus together no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they believe in.’

So….they’re listening. They get it—to the extent they can. We still haven’t spent much time discussing those who are racist today, but it is coming. I wish it didn’t have to….


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