Editor's Note: This blog post by Alicia Yost reflecting on how she teaches her mixed-heritage children about the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work garnered many reader comments. Reader input has moved the conversation from ancestry discoveries to classroom education to deregulation to farm-raised fish, and finally the lobster die-off. We invite you to share your thoughts.
We took the kids to New Haven today for a Martin Luther King Jr. festival. They read children's stories, had live music, an African dance troop and a host of other things.
This comes on the heels of our showing them a King documentary. Giving that many facts to small children is mostly futile because while they act as little sponges and absorb everything, it's usually all jumbled up in a big mess so that when you ask them about segregation, they tell you stories like: "so that's when black people were coming from Africa and had to ride different trains than white people when they went on the underground railroad."
I'm determined to whip out the video camera and record their historical interviews. I'm thinking it will be strikingly similar to watching an episode of drunk history.
Still, it's important for them to know their heritage. They are a mix of Spanish, French, Mexican, Native American, German and African American. In other words, they're a Heinz 57 mixture of blood. All of my husband's family is African American and they have such a wonderful, rich history.
My kids know about their family but still when we pointed out to our little one that she was lucky not to have be born 60 years ago, she was all, "you mean I'm not white!?!"
This reminded me of the time when I asked my mother-in-law if she faced discrimination in the '60s and '70s when she and my late father-in-law were in a scandalous (at the time) marriage. She a fair-skinned, blondhaired, blue-eyed German girl and he is a mix of African and Native American. Were they taunted? How did their families react? Was it difficult?
My mother-in-law has been blind since she was 16 years old and my father-in-law was also blind. In fact, they met at a school for the blind. When I asked her the discrimination question, her eyes got wide and a look of distress came over her face.
I immediately felt bad and said, "I'm sorry. If that brings back memories of hard times, you don't have to tell me." Instead she said, "You mean he was BLACK?"
Man, that woman is a smartass. Man, I love her. But she's right. What does it matter? And curiously, she did point out that because both of them were blind, nobody so much as looked twice at them. Or maybe people did but they had the luxury of not seeing the judgment.
It speaks volumes about the power of discrimination. It's a two-way street that requires someone to put out the hatred and someone to receive it. And since my in-laws never received it, it was therefore non-existent. At least to them.
Read more of Alicia's writing at her blog: www.americasnexttopmommy.blogspot.com