Today marks the 30th year that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been observed. Last Friday Ume learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr at her school and attended an assembly commemorating the life of Dr. King. It helped us begin the discussion of racial discrimination and discrimination in general that is still present in the world. Brian and I focused our conversation on inclusion and how everyone matters. It is a heavy topic to talk to a five year old about, but it is important to begin these discussions now and plant seeds of information on our beliefs and values.
I found this in Ume’s school folder and asked her what she wrote. She replied, “I feel sad because those people had to stand and they couldn’t sit down with the people in the front of the bus”. I was proud that she is able to communicate her feelings and already knew that scenario was not just. We are a progressive society but even after thirty years of observing a federal holiday for the life of Dr. King Jr and his work on the Civil Rights Movement, we are still faced with hate crimes and extreme violence due to racism.
How do you explain to your children about the negativity that is in the world and not have them live in constant distress? Ume already has fears and anxiety on her own, I don’t want to give her anything else to worry about. I also don’t want her to be naive and ignorant to what is going on in the world. I guess it just means I must have those tough conversations and keep an open dialog about how to respect people’s similarities and differences. I also need to check my own prejudices and be cognizant about the language I use when I talk about other people.
It is difficult to be honest with myself and admit my own acts of prejudice. Being a minority with immigrant parents, I have had many experiences with discrimination. Discrimination against us and discrimination toward others. However, in my adult life I have learned the beauty in differences and want to pass this outlook on to my children. I value traveling to other countries and learning about different cultures to gain perspective on other people’s lives.
This is the start of uneasy conversations to have with my children but I know it is important to do. Ume talks to everyone, no matter what they look like. Children are naturally unprejudiced. I hope she continues to have this inclusive spirit and I hope that I continue to foster this nature in her.