A few weeks ago, I was explaining the concept of being a vegetarian and not eating meat to my 4 year old. His response? “Oh I know…the brown people do that!”
Cue my OH SHIT moment. For a minute I sat and thought, what in the world is he talking about? Is my son pointing out skin colors now? What is he getting at? How do I handle this? Please don’t let my kid be that kid!
Then, he mentioned the names of two kids in his class and it all came together. The kids are Indian and due to their beliefs, they do not eat meat.
Whew! Or was it really a relief?
Explaining to my son about the different ways and the uniqueness of everyone, I realized that I may have been going a bit overboard in my panic. I wanted him to know that it’s not the outside that counts but what is in their hearts.
It is the same lesson I teach first grade students every year. It gets more involved this time of year as we celebrate Martin Luther King jr.
The awesome thing about kids is that they don’t look at it the way we do. They are not yet aware of the emotions that history has brought or what so many have been through to achieve where some are today. My son pointed out brown but he didn’t mean anything by it. When first graders look at others, they do not want to play with kids because of their color but because this one is bossy or is not playing the game that is being played. Color of skin has never been mentioned.
How long can we keep this innocence? How do we bring our kids up to know that their identity matters but it is not something to be judged by?
Growing up in Queens, New York, there was no shortage of different races and cultures. I don’t think I really even saw those things unless it was pointed out or explained to me for some reason or another. One moment does come to mind. When I was in junior high, someone made a comment to my mom about me being the only white cheerleader on an otherwise all black team.
My mom really didn’t care.
That is probably proof looking back that so many things existed that I was not even aware of. I wonder now in light of everything that has gone on this past year with racial tensions if that was the case with my friends who were black. What were they aware of? What hopes and beliefs did their parents pass on to them?
My parents raised my brother and myself to judge others like Martin Luther King jr wanted us to…by the content of their character.
Today, there is not only a black and white issue. There is so much more from biracial, homosexual, transgender,rich, poor, and anything else that doesn’t fit the model of what people believe is the way it should be. New battles are being fought in addition to what already exists.
I look at my two kids who haven’t even hit school age yet and wonder what they will be subjected to or who will be in their company. What will their identities be? Their friends?
My hope is that they are always free to be who they are as long as they have good values. My hope is that they are kind to others and can stand up for those who cannot fight for themselves. I hope that my husband and I and anyone who is around us that influences our children helps to instill good morals in them.
Today, and always we recognize a man like so many others who had a dream.
There is still work to be done. What part will you play in it?
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