Stalked by the Stork...a diary of raising twelve kids

Having twelve children is an amazing blessing and one heck of a crazy ride. Join us through all the joys, smiles, tribulations and trials as we navigate this fabulous journey!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reflections of MLK Day

Last week the boys and Albert were out of school for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's a holiday we all love for a man whom we very much respect in our house. That being said, MLK day brings with it some strange challenges in our family when it comes to the kids and their school celebrations of the day.
In our immediate family race is rarely, if ever an issue. We are not blind or naive enough to think this is the case outside of our front door but in our home it doesn't exist. Our children grow from newborns seeing parents of different races and siblings of varying complexions. They have Grandparents who are white, and Grandparents who are black. Ditto for cousins. When each of our babies grows to about the age of 4 they begin to notice this and we explain to them that families come in all different types and we explain then that they are made up of different races and that this is a very positive and good thing. Most of the time, this is the end of the issue. Our children don't look at it as odd, abnormal or out of the ordinary because to them, this is simply the way life has always been. We do keep our little ones somewhat sheltered from the ways of society when it comes to racial issues. We know that life will bring its own lessons but while they are small, this is how we prefer it.
However, it seems that each time one of our little ones starts kindergarten, the festivities surrounding MLK day bring unexpected lessons and teachings that we aren't sure we were ready for our children to learn. It usually goes something like this- our little one (this year, Jackson) comes home and asks us if we know that "a long time ago" black people and white people could not go to the same school or the same resteraunts or play with each other. As you can imagine, this comes as quite the shock to our children.They have trouble fathoming such a thing and are slow to understand. They then question what would have happened to our family in "Martin Luther King's days." Almost always this is followed by a discussion about how their Grandad's life was affected by racism. The boys really become upset at the realization that their beloved Grandad would have faced any of the issues they have recently learned about. It also leads to the kids misunderstanding certain things. Remember, in thier minds, mixed race families are normal. Jackson, thus asked us at the dinner table "Did Grandad have to marry Grandma because she was black?" Um No, no, no, no and no! We told him that Grandad married Grandma because he fell in love with her and she fell in love with him. Jackson then thought about it and asked "Well, what if he fell in love with someone who was white? Would he still have to marry Grandma?" Okay, clearly he's not undertanding.
Brandon, after learning about MLK day and the upcomming election in the same week suddenly became very concerned about who we were going to vote for. When I told him I wasn't sure yet, he told me he was afraid that if the wrong person were elected, they might try to bring back slavery. When I assured him that this would never happen, he wanted a detailed explanation of how congress and the president worked so he could see exactly HOW it would never happen. Even afer we reassured him, he still remained uneasy.
Obviously, I'm not advocating that we stop celebrating MLK day. Just stating my thoughts on how the experience of learning about the civil rights movement is different from the perspective of minority children vs. non-minority children. In our case, our bi-racial children are often confused, disturbed, and shaken up by what they learn. It is their first introduction to the fact that all people were not always considered equal They are further perplexed at the prospect of segregation, because segregation is so very contrary to who they are. I can imagine that to a small child who is made up of two races, learning that these races were once not supposed to intermingle could be slightly damaging to their sense of self. Perhaps we should simply start teaching them these lessons at an earlier age but I don't know. Albert and I both like the fact that inside the walls of our home, these issues don't exist. There isn't black, white or mixed. Just Dad, Mom and kids. Maybe that sets the kids up for the contrasting harshness of what they will inevitably learn at school and in life, but we think it's a necessary haven for them, and us to have becasue of the inevitable harshness of school and life. So, this week, we have another little boy who has become a bit wiser to the history of our country. Up next...Jackson's thoughts on his "career" Shall he be a Chef, doctor, or an elf??? Stay tuned to "A Diary of Raising 8 Kids!"


bestfamily said...

With nieces and nephews from donnies side of the family being of mixed races, I get what you are saying. When I was going to school, it was like a huge crime for there to be mixed kids. And they got picked on. Me personally...I have always thought some of the prettiest kids are mixed. I was never raced to be racist, but it was also looked down upon to date outside the same race, but I trully believe that the color of someone skins should not automatically say everything about a person. There are rotten whites, chineses, mexicans, and blacks. Every race has its rotten apples. One day the schools and society will be able to better celebrate MLK day and really involve ALL races in the celebration.

BoufMom9 said...

I could've written what you wrote, only maybe not as wonderfully.
We have done the same with our children, raised them somewhat sheltered to the ills of society and you're right, it's not until things are brought up in school that my children have known anything different than mom,dad and children.
I don't know that I would ever want to start teaching my children at a younger age. I like that they grow up knowing we are all equal. then when they do get older and issues come up, we can still all talk openly as a family and it puts the real lessons back into our hands as the parents.
You are doing a fabulous thing for your children by having them grow up seeing in grays, not black and white.

Lynn said...

So yesterday I just saw the video at the top and thought you hadn't written anything new so I missed this. Wow! This is a lot to deal with! It breaks my heart that this is even an issue, ANYWHERE! I don't see anything wrong with keeping your home a haven for the kids. I'm not sure trying to explain it at a younger age would help anyway since it's brought up in kindergarten.
We have a different makeup in our family that could be problematic down the road. Two of our kids have married Hispanics. One more obvious than the other. Neither pair have children yet so I don't have a clue how it will effect them.
I'm going to love coming here all the time! You're going to really make me think about things, aren't you!

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