My six year old daughter is like a little angel on my shoulder, my embodied conscience, as we drive home each day from school. There are two particular spots where many of the original twelve lunches for the homeless were given away, and many other offerings since. While I sometimes still have a twinge of discomfort when I see someone waiting at those corners, she is always perky and happy to see them. If I’m scrambling in the car for something to give, she will want to offer something from her lunch box.
In the post-Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday period and in the midst of Black History Month, she has had a lot of questions about race. Not particularly about the children in her class or our friends of different races, but particularly WHY “‘most homeless people have dark skin. ”
My first response was almost a denial. “Some of the homeless people we see have light skin.” Of course, she’s too smart to be satisfied with that. “Yeah, but MOST of them have dark skin.” I wasn’t getting off that easy.
What followed was a rather scattered discussion of race and politics in America and the world. It was enlightening to try to lay out the issues with someone who has few pre-concieved notions of race and little to no knowledge of history, but who possesses a very real sense of justice and the golden rule. Developmentally, she was able to grasp a sense of how unjust people can be. I want to protect her from it, but I also don’t want to gloss over the reality of evil in the world, and in our own hearts. I want her to recognize it and work to quiet it.
Later that afternoon, I found this note she wrote, and felt like she got the message. I’ll translate: “You are a star, no matter what kind of skin you are, because God loves you. ”
How have you handled teaching your children about bigotry and prejudice, racial or otherwise? Favorite resources to share?