Last week, my 4-year-old daughter wanted to know more about Martin Luther King Jr.
She wanted to know why he was so important.
I tried to explain it in a way that a 4-year-old would understand. I told her there was a time when people were not nice to each other because of how they looked. I told her people could not go to restaurants and sit where they wanted to because of the color of their skin.
She asked me why.
I told her the truth, “I don’t know why.”
She shook her head in confusion and said, “I just don’t understand.”
Me either, I thought.
The conversation lead to another discussion: skin color. Back then, I explained a person had to be a certain color to be afforded privileges. She then asked which color and I said white.
She looked horrified.
“I’m white,” she said sadly, as if putting the pieces together of her history. When I saw her reaction, I told her that it was OK to be white.
I told her that it isn’t about her ancestors’ actions, but more so, it is about ours.
This was our chance to use their mistakes as an example of what not to do. I told her that it was up to us to have friends of every color and to realize that diversity is what makes us learn.
The next day, I went to turn on her usual children’s TV shows. But she stopped me on a channel that was showing “Little Bill.” The show, based on Bill Cosby’s “Little Bill” book series, is about a young black boy living with his family in the city and the decisions and challenges he faces in his life.
She asked me if she could watch it. After a few minutes, I heard her telling her 17-month-old brother that the people on the TV had black skin and that was different from ours and that’s OK. The smile on my face from that moment lasted the entire day.
I’m not sure how much she understood from our conversation about Martin Luther King Jr. and racism, but I knew at that moment that she took away the most important aspect of it all – acceptance.
And maybe one day she won’t have to talk to her children about that topic – it will just be understood and known.
And they can say that they learned from their ancestors and made the world different.
Danielle Herzog is married and a mother to two children. Read her every Wednesday on momaha.
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