"Mommy, why were people like that?"

That was the question that I received this morning from my bright-eyed eight-year-old daugther while quizzing her for her social studies quiz. They are discussing regions, specifically the Northeast and the South. When I asked her to tell me about Alabama, she mentioned Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. I asked if she knew what they did. She gave a very good description of Rosa Parks' famous bus ride and she told me that Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted black and white children to be able to play together. Then she asked me why they weren't allowed to in the first place. I closed my laptop, looked at her and tried my hardest to explain something so disgusting as racisim so that my innocent eight-year-old daughter would understand it but not be overwhelmed by it. She paused for a moment to process it all and almost whispered "Mommy, why were people like that?" I was honestly able to tell her that I didn't know and that it was a very sad time for this country. She paused and thought again. She asked "What would have happened if Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks never lived? How would it be now?" Then, before I could answer, she said, "You know how sometimes a white mommy has a brown baby? What would happen to them?" Cadence has several bi-racial friends and, suddenly, she became very concerned for them. I explained some of the hardships that would have faced bi-racial couples and their children in the Civil Rights era but I assured her that things are a lot better now. Not perfect, but better. I didn't want to give her the idea that the world was perfect, because it isn't. But I also didn't want her to worry about it constantly. Then Gabriel, who had been listening intently, piped up and said, "Mommy, what am I?" I smiled and hugged him and said, "You are Gabe and that is all that really matters."

After that we watched portions of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on You Tube and talked about the importance of not judging a person "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." We also disussed the kids' racial background a bit because they were curious but they ultimately agreed that what they see on the outside doesn't have anything to do with what is on the inside.

That was definitely more than I had planned on doing before breakfast, but I'm glad we had the talk.


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