I find that it feels as though in raising children and watching them grow, we are often stretched and asked to grow ourselves. It is one of the painful and beautiful things about parenting. I have found myself inhabiting the most uncomfortable spaces at any given moment. Moments that require I lay my crap on the floor, and surrender to the task.
When River was two, her pre-school gave the kids an art project which asked them to draw their family. Up until that point, we never had a real discussion on race. Despite River being biracial, there was the tender and obvious color-blindness that happens within a family unit in birthing and raising a baby. Their worlds seem small, and so, it is. But something weird and magical happened when River went to draw us..
In the illustration I was brown, her dad was white, and she was a lighter shade of brown. That was the first time I heard her align herself with a specific color; “Daddy is white. You’re brown. And I’m brown like you, Mommy!” That moment of identity spurred conversations big and small with River and within myself. It opened our eyes early-on in a unique way that didn’t allow for complacency.
Years later, I am reminded that when it comes to racism, parenthood, and growth, the truth shouldn’t and can’t be glossed over. Colorblindness can not be a form of teaching, and Dr. King shouldn’t be immortalized as this cure-all so that people feel at ease with constant racial tension and injustice. If anything, on this day that we celebrate his life, white people should find that spot of comfort in sharing a quote of his and crack it wide open. Find the leaks of passive acceptance and ignorance and realize that there is more work to be done.
So much of that begins in honestly and openly teaching our children and ourselves, again and again.