My son came from his room, wielding a toy sword and a stretchy rope.
"Slave! Slave!", he yelled, as he flicked the stretchy rope like a whip.
In utter shock, I responded "whoa, where'd you see that?!"
He shrugged his shoulders, then asked why it mattered.
How do I tell my eight year old about the history of slavery, without it stirring more fear than is already being stirred in the current uproar of our country? In that moment, I realized just how far we have come, but also how much further we need to go to alleviate the racial separation. Here it goes..
"It matters, because at one time, people with your color of skin were made to be slaves, and often treated really bad."
He jumped in, "no mom, that was black people, and I'm brown."
"But people call your skin color black, just like they call mine white, even though we are actually brown and tan. Silly, I know. Still, some people were once made to be slaves, and that's just not ok. That was back when some people were real big jerks, and no one was brave enough to do anything about it."
My dad chimed in the conversation, and we briefly covered the history of segregation and how ridiculous all that was. Then, my eight year old son began to tell of his knowledge.
"Yeah, I know about the lady who got on the bus and sat in the white people seat. She got in trouble and put in jail. She should've just listened to the rules, so she wouldn't get in trouble!"
It was at this moment that I realized how this new wave of "compliance" has potential to be a step backwards. I'm not in any way condoning anyone, of any ethnicity, to be noncompliant with authority. I appreciate the men and women who walk the thin blue line to protect even those who hate them. I desire their safety, and respect their authority. They deserve to make it home to their families too, and there's no way I could do their job. And I do believe that we should all be compliant, should we encounter the wrong, or mistaken side of the law. I trust that not all law enforcement is corrupt, but how do I teach my son to know the difference? And how do I swallow the pill of truth that people of my flesh color, originally created this problem?
"Listen, she did the right thing by standing for what she believes in, on that bus. And if it wasn't for her, you and I may not have been able to be together like this today."
"But she got in big trouble, because she broke the rule. And you always tell me the rules are for everyone's safety."
"You're right, I do tell you that. But if anyone ever tells you to do anything, just because of your skin color, you have my permission to disobey. No one should be treated differently, just because they look different."
How do we respect compliance, while teaching our kids to stand up for what they believe in? I'm not talking about the things we can go about with petitions, and protests. I'm talking about those in the moment, real life experiences, that could determine your future, or death.
I sit here, on a flight home; and the whole trip, I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the diversity I've experienced along the way. I love that because one woman kept her seat, now we can all sit side by side.
In this wave of racial war that the media is highlighting, I urge you to step back and think like a child. Racism is not born, it is taught. I also urge you to be the Rosa Parks for your beliefs. Comply when it's right and just, but peacefully keep your place and do not waiver, if it'll bring about positive change.
I don't want my son to come home saying that our officers always kill the black guys, because he heard about a media blast from another kid at school. I don't want my son to be afraid to stand for something. I don't want my son to be watched extra attentively, and be taken as aggressive, when he's doing the same thing as the skinny white boy next to him. I don't want the media to only tell of the bad, while neglecting to report on the peaceful movements to bring about change.
I tell my son all the time, how I wish I had his beautiful skin. But I don't, and because of that, I'll never truly know what it feels like to wear what all comes with it. It's painful to witness my son ever be looked at differently. But for every idiotic person that looks cross at him, ninety nine others adore him. And to all of you who take the time to smile, play with, and include my son, thank you. To that one percent that choose to still look at skin as if the heart in there isn't perfectly made, you are fools; watch for my son to be the next world changer. And watch me, his pasty white mom, get his back every single time.