Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
In some ways, I am living that dream, every day in my own home. It is a privilege I do not take lightly.
But, walking that out, is tricky at times. As a mother to both white and black children, I want so much for their skin color not to matter, but then I see how sometimes it does. And the most compassionate thing is not ignoring that reality or saying it isn't a thing, but empathizing with it.
Last week I got an email from my daughter's kindergarten teacher, one that went out to all the parents about what the kids would be learning that week. When I saw they were "learning all about Martin Luther King," I sucked in my breath, my stomach kind of flopped, and my palms began to sweat. Not at all because I didn't want them to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., I've played the speeches for my kids at home, we read books about the civil rights movement, and talk freely about skin color. My 3 older kids have all learned about MLK at this public school. But, my older 3 kids are white and it feels different when they learn about the civil rights movement than when my youngest daughter, who is black, learns about the civil rights movement.
The difference is that when my white children hear the message of MLK, I believe (and hope) they hear that you should not judge anyone based on the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character. But, when my black daughter hears the message of MLK, I fear that she will hear that there was a time not so long ago in our country when people with her skin color were seen as less than because of the color of their skin. And they had to fight for the right to be treated like everyone else. Which, of course, makes me worried that she will then begin to feel less than.
We've not focused so much (or at all) yet on slavery or other more hideous aspects of black history with our 6 year old daughter and although I know she will have to know some day, as her mom, my desire is to shelter her from that.
I met up today with a friend who is white and raising a black son, she had just seen the movie Selma, which I have not yet seen. I shared with her my fears about what my daughter was picking up on from black history lessons and she nodded, sucked in her breath in a way I know so well, and confessed that she is glad her son doesn't fully understand it all right now. It made me feel less crazy to see my feelings echoed in another mama who is living the dream.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. teaching seems to have been done very well for my kindergartener, focusing mostly on that he wanted children of all skin colors to work and play together in peace, rather than just focusing on black people as the marginalized group.
And today, my 6 year old daughter was reciting parts of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech to anyone who would listen!
So, we're going to keep walking this thing out, with compassion for people of all skin colors, praying for change, and doing whatever we can to be the change we'd like to see in the world.