Like so many of my fellow parents, I woke up with a heavy heart today. I didn’t want to see the news and find out how many more lives were lost overnight as a result of racism and guns. Raising kids in a divided country is challenging. Raising kids in a country where I worry about mass shootings is painful. Raising kids in a country where their black friends might be treated differently because of the color of their skin is unacceptable.
Weeks like this I struggle to explain the news to my children because there is no reasonable explanation.
Babies are a blank slate when they are born, but they quickly form a world view based on what they see and hear from the adults in their life. The racist joke at the Thanksgiving table that causes someone to laugh or the uncomfortable silence by others – opinions are being formed. Once they are in school, they may see someone excluded from a group based purely on the color of their skin – opinions are being formed. The examples are everywhere.
This morning as I continued to think about the week’s events, I remembered a conversation from this past weekend.
We had spent most of the day at Kennywood and we decided to stop for Ice Cream on the way home. Along the way, we drove through the neighborhood where Scott grew up and continued past his elementary school. Scott mentioned that he and his brother (the one closest in age to him) had walked to school. Juliana was quiet and then said that Daddy only had one brother. In 2011, Scott and I made the choice to not expose our children to that brother for several reasons. So they haven’t seen him 5 years, and I had forgotten how long ago it was.
I started to explain why they don’t see that Uncle and Juliana calmly asked if he was a racist. And then she got mad. She yelled – “People have no choice over the color of the skin they are born with! Why would you treat someone different because they don’t look like you?” I remember when they talked about racism in a social justice unit at school. She came home for school so sad and confused. I feel the same way.
I don’t get to keep my children in a bubble and control everything that they see and hear. And I certainly don’t have all of the answers. But I hope that they learn enough about compassion and tolerance to grow up and help make this country a better place.