Last week, my son had brought his homework to me for us to work on. One of the items for him to discuss and learn was "who was Martin Luther King, and what did he do?". I struggled with how to answer that question, and how to explain his accomplishments not just in terms that a 5 1/2 year old would understand; but in a way that would make sense to him. My son doesn't see people in terms of color. I mean, he acknowledges that people have "darker skin" but he doesn't identify people that way. He's never used that to describe a person in a crowd or anything like that.
So, how was I going to describe prejudices and that people are perceived to be "different" just solely based on the color of their skin? I stumbled a bit, but what I said to him was "he was a very kind, smart man who had a dream and a hope that everyone would be treated the same, no matter who they were or what they look like".
I guess what struck me the most was that as parents, part of our job is to try to teach our children to be kind to everyone and to not see people based upon their differences - be it race, religion or handicap. It doesnt' mean we don't expose them - it just means that we try to show our children that we're people, not definitions. And then, we send them to school - where they are going to be taught about the ugliness of prejudice. I know we have to teach them about it...it's part of our history and who we are as a culture; and it's still alive today.
I guess I'm just struggling with the upcoming losses of innocence on a variety of levels he's going to inevitably encounter. And I can't shelter him from the ugliness of the world, no matter how much I may want to.