When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she initiated our first conversation about racism. As I helped her get ready for a bath, she asked me if I knew who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was. When I told her that I knew who he was, she asked, Mommy, did you know that a man shot and killed Dr. King? Her question caught me off-guard a bit, but I confirmed that I knew this. The conversation continued.
She posed another question, Mommy, do you know why he shot Dr. King? Before I could respond, she answered her own question, He killed Dr. King just because his skin color was different. Isn’t that silly? God made everybody beautiful. She said this with such innocence that it nearly broke my heart. The conversation wasn’t over, either.
She then started sharing with me some of the other things that she had learned about the Civil Rights Movement. Incredulously, she shared with me her elementary understanding of segregation. With every example, she would exclaim, Can you believe that, Mommy? Unfortunately, I could. Then, she hit me with a question that I couldn’t answer. I still can’t.
Why didn’t anyone tell the people that it was wrong? As I started to explain that Dr. King and other Civil Rights activists fought for social justice, she interrupted me and clarified her question, No; why didn’t anyone tell them it was wrong BEFORE they did it? Why did they think it was okay?
When I woke up this morning to news of riots here in Louisville and in Minneapolis, my mind drifted back to that conversation with my daughter. Only this time I was the one asking the questions about why racism, injustice, inequality, and oppression remain part of our country’s fabric. Again, I came up empty.
This evening, I talked with both of my daughters about racism and the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We all expressed our horror about what happened and questioned how such atrocities could continue to happen. My oldest daughter concluded our conversation by simply saying, There’s no other way to look at this. It’s just wrong. She’s right.
I don’t know what to say and do, but I do know that I need to find the answer. We all do. This is not a they, them, or their problem. It’s an us, we, and our problem. It’s a human race problem, and we can, and must, do better.
That’s another story. . .
Categories: That's Another Story