I had one of those super great parent moments today. When you are just bursting with pride over something your kid says or does, you know? Only this was way cooler than my kid using a complete sentence, saying please, or sharing a toy (these are great, too, of course). I wanted to talk to my kids about MLK Jr. Day today. They had the day off school, so of course they think that is wonderful. My fiance had the day off, too, so I thought I would join them all. We took a family hike and it seemed like the right time to have a talk about the reason for the day and to see if they had a basic understanding of what we are remembering. I knew that my 8 year old had a good grasp of the meaning of today, but had no idea where my 5 year old would be on this.
Even though our family is white and we certainly benefit from all that being white means, they also have moms and no dad. Being part of a lesbian family (two of them to be exact) has given them a taste of being “other,” “less than,” or, at best “different,” which I know will only get worse as they get older. It certainly does not compare to the unfairness and discrimination that black people have historically faced. It does help them to understand hatred and blind unfairness, though. After all, my kids watched the state of California vote away their mom’s right to marry their stepmom, whom they love and adore almost as much as I do. Try answering this question from your little one, “Mommy, why do those people in that church over there hate us? They don’t even know us.”
So, on our hike, I asked my 5 year old son if he knew why today was special. He said that it was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Good start, I thought. What was special about him, I asked. “He tried to change the laws to help black people. He wanted blacks and whites to be able to go to the same school, and to be able to drink out of the same water fountains, and for blacks to be able to sit in the front of the bus or the back.” Even better. And you know that he was killed, assasinated? Do you know why? “He was killed because people didn’t like what he had to say.” Wow. My fiance and I looked at each other – a little stunned that he said it so simply, so clearly.
Martin Luther King Jr. was killed because some people did not like what he had to say. A 5 year old understands it. Do you care if you share a water fountain with anyone who is black? He looks at me like I have got crawdads crawling out of my ears, “No.” Of course not, mom, he is saying, and runs off to look at a pile of leaves. A 5 year old, people. Just saying.
Equality is butch. Be butch.