Emma learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in kindergarten. She told me about Rosa Parks being told by White people to sit at the back of the bus. And about laws saying Black people were not equal. She talked about the word segregation as she understood it: Black water fountains and White, Black schools and White. Black restaurants and White. She told me that White people thought they were better than Black people and a long time ago had them as slaves, which she understood in a in a Cinderella sort of way. She educated her brother on this insight and we had our first discussion about racism. It was an interesting conversation. Then they got sidetracked by busses and water fountains and how much they love to drink water from fountains and ride busses.
A few days later when I picked her up from school, she was kicking at the ground and wouldn’t look at me. Finally after much coaxing she told me that she had to work with two boys in class who bossed her around. She complained heartily about not wanting to do what they were making her do and it was NOT FAIR!
Zach: “Oh, they must have been the White people.” He said with a weary sigh, “The White people are bossy. They are not nice. They think they are better than us. Good thing we are not the White people!”
“Well actually, we are white people.” I interjected. "Look at our skin. We are white."
‘No we are not! We are not the White people!” Emma exclaimed.
“Oh yes, we are white people.”
They don’t believe me.
“We don’t hate anybody! We don’t have slaves!”
“Yes, but, we are still white people.”
-Total confusion ensued. There was a long contemplative silence from both children.
“We are not the White people.” Said Zach, very quietly and with great conviction.
I see many more conversations in our future.