How would you answer the question?
My young son asked me this. It stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t know what to say. So, I took refuge in the strategy parents have used since time immemorial—stall.
He didn’t persist but I felt an important moment was in front of us. I had to say something. But what?
Let me give you some background.
We moved to our current neighborhood when he was only one year old. A chief reason we chose the area was to be in walking distance of a public elementary school known for high-quality academics and rich diversity. The student body is very diverse. About half are white and half are people of color. Over 20 languages are spoken at home among the families. My son says that one of the best things about the school is, in his words, “You can be friends with different people.”
This blend of American cultures and world cultures provides unparalleled opportunities for education in diversity, ethics, and values. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ranks high in the many events celebrated at the school and used as occasions for moral education.
Dr. King himself raised the first question in this week’s series: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” (Scroll down to read about that earlier question.)
Half a century later, my son asked this second question.
He and I have watched and discussed Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. More than a year ago, we took him to the polling place and he saw me vote for Obama. We watched the inauguration together.
We don’t let him watch the news, but when he heard at school about the floods in the Midwest and was frightened, we watched some media coverage. In it, a commentator mentioned that a “white house” was partially submerged and showed a picture. My son burst into tears, thinking that it was The White House and the Obama family was in danger.
Okay, that’s a bit of background. Through our efforts and the school’s, he is getting the educational experiences we want.
Now back to his question. I did give him an answer and I promise to tell you what I said. But there is more than one answer, and I don’t want to close off our discussion.
So, how would you answer?
And, what does his question mean?