Every day when I pick up baby girl from school I ask her the same questions: How was your day? Did you have fun? and What did you guys do? The majority of the time her answer to the last question is a simple, “I don’t really remember.” She can tell me all about what games her and her friends made up during recess and who she talked to while waiting at the car loop, but it takes a lot of digging to find out what they did or talked about in her Kindergarten class. However, fast forward a few days, or even a week, and little snippets of what they’ve done come out in casual conversation.
With Martin Luther King day being celebrated early last week, it wasn’t until the weekend that we were able to find out more about what she learned in class regarding the man behind the holiday. Of course, as is customary for my baby girl, it wasn’t a straight “here’s what the teacher told us” conversation. The information almost always comes out in things she says or does; she also has a habit of surprising me at the most unexpected moments. Here’s a glimpse at a couple of conversations we had over the weekend that were sparked by her class’ discussion of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
No More ‘Whites Only’
“I’m glad the ‘white only’ signs are gone mommy,” she said as she was watching TV and I was changing baby boy’s diaper.
“Me too baby.”
“But, what happened to the babies?”
“What do you mean sweetie?”
“Well, since people with dark skin couldn’t be in the same house as people with white skin, what happened to the babies with dark skin? Did they take them somewhere else?”
“No! They stayed with their parents. If the babies have dark skin, then that means the parents did too, right?”*
“But, what about baby boy and I? You don’t have dark skin, but we do. So, pretend the ‘white only’ signs were still around – what would happen to us?”
“You don’t think I have dark skin?”
“Well, it’s more like tan.”
“Ok. Well, they didn’t separate the babies from their parents, sweetie. They all stayed together in their house. And, actually mama, if we lived back in those days, they would have thought I had dark skin too, just like you.”
*I realize this statement is not completely true, but I didn’t really want to get into an explanation of genetics with a 6 year old.
Love Drives Out Love
She sat at our dining table drawing a picture as I fed her little brother. When she finished she showed it to me as she normally does.
“What does this say?” I asked her pointing to the words I had already read, but wanted her to explain.
“Love drives out love.”
“And what does that mean?”
“Well, at school they told us that Martin King-”
“Martin Luther King?”
“Yes, Martin Luther King said ‘Hate does not drive out hate, only love does.’”
“Ok. And, do you know what that means?”
“No, no I don’t.”
“You guys didn’t talk about it at school?”
“I see. Well, what he was saying was that if someone has hate in their heart, to give them more hate, by being mean or violent, is not going to take that hate away. You have to show them love to take their hate away.”
“Do you really get it?”
“I think so.”
“He believed in being peaceful. He didn’t think you could make someone who has hate be better by being violent. You needed to show them love and be peaceful to help them change.”
“Like the people that wanted the ‘white only’ signs!”
“Ok. Well, I was trying to say love brings more love. Love drives out love.”
“I get it. That’s a very nice thought baby girl.”
It always amazes me how much farther her mind takes things. She’ll always have a follow-up question. Or she’ll think of varying scenarios and wonder ‘what if’. She loves to explore and imagine. This is a good thing. It will help her empathize and understand the world better as she grows.
Discussions on race will no doubt continue in our house for a long time. As she learns more and more about this country’s history, she will come home with more questions. It will take a long time for her to fully grasp all that was, all that is, and all that may be. And, that’s ok. I’m still working on it myself.
Top photo by Tim Krepp