The night that the grand jury announced their decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson was a night I put T1 to bed with red-rimmed eyes. In the weeks since the shooting I’ve tried to read the articles and blog posts from black Americans detailing their experiences in America and I’ve tried to face down my own personal prejudices and biases. Katherine is right, racism is not over because Barack Obama is president or because Oprah gave a room full of people new automobiles. We still have a long way to go.
T1 saw my red eyes and asked me what was wrong. I told him that someone had been mean to a boy because his skin is a dark color, and that it made me said because I think we should be kind to everyone no matter what they look like. I said the boy had died and I felt sad for his mommy because she missed her boy so much. I know this explanation is reductive, and leaves out many pertinent details, but it felt like the appropriate amount of information for the stage he is in. He can explore the nuances with me in future discussions as he grows older and his cognitive capacity increases. T1 hugged me and said he wished that the boy’s mommy didn’t have to be away from her son. I agreed.
Since then T1 has brought the issue a few times, and this morning he picked it up again while watching The Colbert Report over breakfast. He asked me “Can I see a picture of that boy?”, and I was touched by his desire to find a connection with this figure he had been hearing about. I showed him this photograph and he said “He looks nice, I like his jacket.”
I wondered, in that moment, what it would be like to approach every new person without the baggage we adults carry around from the things we’ve personally experienced and the things we’ve heard from other people. I think having more conversations with our kids about these difficult topics can help them continue to respond in this way, to look at a picture and see the person first, and the issues second.