So yesterday was a day of at-home social studies lessons - it was MLK Day, so school was closed for the holiday, plus it was the public version of the Presidential Inauguration, which was streamed live on all network channels. We did more TV watching yesterday than we have in months.
They've been doing a lot of talking about MLK at school - who he was, what he stood for, why he was/is important - but there are still plenty of questions to be asked at home and plenty of discussions to be had about him. It's very hard to explain to a 4-year-old why MLK was so important to society and to the way that the world works - we talked about it in the most basic terms of people having different colored skin, and that MLK believed that we were all the same on the inside, no matter what we looked like on the outside. Charlie has a relatively diverse classroom, so he immediately started talking about two of his friends, M and S, who are "brown," and another friend, S, who is a "different kind of brown" and he wanted to know why people thought that they couldn't be friends. So then the parenting dilemma becomes - just how much do you tell them? At four, what is the appropriate amount of information to share to impress upon him that people used to not like other people who look different from them? That they didn't used to be able to do the same things or eat at the same restaurants or go to the same schools? And do you tell him that there are still people who think that we're not all the same and therefore not all equal? When he asks why a bad guy shot MLK and whether that bad guy still exists do you really get into the absolute hatred that people had for each other? And if you do, and pretend that it was just something that happened a long, long time ago, are you then sugar-coating the world too much by not explaining that there are still bad people out there? People who still don't think that we're all equal on the inside because we all have the same parts and pieces under our skin? And that it's so important for him to know and remember that it doesn't matter what people look like on the outside, but that it's what's on the inside that counts?
And how do you tell this to someone who has no background of understanding - no knowledge of the civil rights movement, who just looks at skin color as a quirky characteristic, just like being tall or old or wearing blue pants, not as something that's grounds to judge by?
Or is it the sociologist in me way overthinking the discussion? We do still have a long way to go, as Obama himself so eloquently pointed out during his inauguration speech:
"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm."
And as someone who is about to be the mom of a girl, I feel even more strongly that these issues are things that need to be talked about. We (my family) can talk about the civil rights movement from a position of (relative) privilege, having white skin and all, but I have a uterus and so does my daughter and in many circles that is still seen as a sign of inferiority.
So yeah, there's that. This is where my mind goes when I'm up late with a cold. Jealous?