Monday, January 15, 2007

Color Blind....

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.

6 comments:

chesneygirl said...

Something I don't look forward to in 3 or 4 years myself.

But you handled it eloquently!! Wonderful way to describe Mr. King!
I'll have to remember that when it comes up in my home! Thanks, Rebecca! :)

Anonymous said...

Prejudice. Its a hard topic to discuss. I have a very dear friend who happens to be 'darker skinned' who is very open to discussion about the topic. She also tends to lean more towards the side of 'lighter skinned'. It drives her crazy that there is an issue of color. I haven't had the discussion with my kids... except when one of them yelled out in Wal-Mart 'mom! that man is chocolate!' Then, we had a teeny weeny little talk.

Anonymous said...

I think your response was awesome....you're a great example and a great mom! HUGS

McSwain said...

You handled it well. I laughed at Kerry's "chocolate" remark, because I announced, "Mom, look at all the chocolate people!" In a public place where we were the ONLY white people. In the 60's. In South Central Los Angeles.

Kids encounter prejudice sooner than we'd like, don't they? Whether it's over skin color, where someone lives, or the kind of clothes they wear. If you can get a copy of "Eye of the Storm," a documentary from the 60's where a teacher named Jane Elliott teaches kids about prejudice, it's VERY powerful and it shows you how it works. Strong material though, don't watch it with little kidlets.

Glitter/Aleka said...

That's probably the hardest thing about being a parent...even though I'm not one when I look at my niece I definitely want her not to have to deal with stuff like that!

Anonymous said...

I think you handled it perfectly.