Its a strange task to try and teach your young and innocent child about horrible things that took place before her time. Horrible laws and cultural norms that I can't even begin to fathom... but, I suppose I can, because there are different horrible things happening today to different people and cultures instead. But, because Maeve is totally and completely unaware of such evil, it is hard to introduce even a little of this to her, because I don't want to break her sweet innocent bubble.
But, I know its my responsibility to help teach my child about the hero's in this world that made brave choices that helped create significant change. Obviously, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of these hero's. Two more hero's I had started teaching Maeve about were Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. On Monday we pulled out the books and watched a short video about MLK to start the conversation. She's not very old, so I didn't want to bombard her -- instead, I figured I'd let the books speak for themselves and we could discuss any questions that she might have.
And, here's a dramatic 4 1/2 year old's response to the Rosa Parks story... "Well, I would take those white people and kill them!". Ummm.... (horrified that she would even say that, and amused, slightly, at the irony of her violent outburst, since a main theme is peaceful and non-violent protest). So, we had a little discussion about that. I talked her off the firing squad and got her to the point where she then only wanted to "put the white people in jail and never let them out". Well, we'll take that as a step in the right direction.
I found myself feeling guilty sharing this history to my sweet African baby. I feel guilty because I am a white person. I feel guilty because I am a white person who needs to share with her these dark days, and I don't want her to take what happened in the past personally. And, I know I need to prepare her for the world. I love her unconditionally and therefore she will obviously never experience racism from me... but, I'm not naive to think that she'll never experience it outside of our safe community of friends and family. How can I protect her? I think one of the most effective ways is teaching her early what value she has and how to stick up for herself. She needs to believe in herself. She needs to be inspired by all the hero's in this world. Thankfully she's got some of the right personality traits... strong, stubborn, and independent. I just hope all these things are enough.