Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mommy said a bad word

3rd grader Ryan has been really interested in the election. The only president he has ever known is George W and this is new territory for him. He has asked several times why "the girl" wasn't going to be president and it's opened up dialogue about the election process on numerous occasions.

The boys both knew that yesterday was a big day, but the "firsts" involved in this election have been lost on them. In a good way. We live in a blue collar neighborhood. My boys attend a very racially integrated public school in a run down building. One of Ryan's closest friends is Latino. Eric's is Asian. And neither of them has ever mentioned this. Yesterday afternoon when I turned the coverage on, Tavis Smiley was speaking. Ryan looked at the tv and asked "is he African American too?". My first thought was can't you SEE him? And then I realized that, in the right way, he just doesn't get it. He doesn't see it. The labels that generations upon generations have been using are not making a lot of sense to my kids who are growing up in the midst of inclusion and integration.

But with history about to be made, I thought it was important for Ryan to understand a bit more about these issues. We drove home from our Love and Logic class listening to McCain's gracious concession speech on the radio. And even though it was past his bedtime, I told Ryan he could stay up to see Obama's speech. I wanted him to always remember this moment and to appreciate the rare event he was witness to. And after the speech was over (and after I complained that, with Brad Pitt reportedly in the crowd, why do they keep showing Oprah?!) Mike and I explained part of Obama's speech to Ryan.

Obama referenced slavery. And civil rights. And the causes for which Martin Luther King Jr. died. And although Ryan has learned about Martin Luther King Jr., he really didn't get it. He has known that Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but never really understood why. So we told him. We told him what slavery was and that, even when Black people were technically free, they still couldn't eat at McDonalds. Can you imagine not being able to eat at McDonalds just because of the color of your skin?!? And Mommy used a bad word. The word STUPID is a bad word in our house and that is the word I used to describe our country and the choices that we made in treating African Americans. Ryan did a double take as I said this to him. But what other word can you use to describe the actions of our country in the treatment of anyone NOT WHITE? To an 8 year old, is it not STUPID to tell someone they can't use a drinking fountain? Or ride a bus? Or have an important job?

I hope both boys continue to grow up blissfully ignorant of racial issues. I hope that seeing different races and genders in the White House becomes normal. And expected. I hope we can stop being STUPID.


Anonymous said...

Well done! Congrats to the US. Bigots be damned! This subject has always been close to my heart.
You said it all.

Faye (Australia)

Wilde Thyme Knits said...

Here,here! Excellent post KQ.

Susie said...

Great post! I see the same with my boys who don't differentiate between races. It's a new world. Thank goodness.