Today I asked my seven-year-old son if he knew why there was no school today. He said it was to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. I asked him what Dr. King did that was so special. He answered, “He fought for our freedom.” I questioned a little further, “Whose freedom did he fight for?” My son answered, “Everyone’s.” I pressed a little more and reminded him that Dr. King fought for the rights of a group of Americans who were not treated fairly. Without missing a beat my son said, “Mom why would he fight for the freedom of one group of Americans but not for the freedom of all Americans. That’s just crazy.”
In that moment I realized that I have been blessed with a child who is wise beyond his years and will always challenge me to think deeper. I also realized that given what I know of Dr. King, my son is right. While we can listen to and read the famous words “I have a dream” it’s not hard to imagine any group of people for whom those words do not ring true. Whether you are white, black, or any shade in between. Whether you are gay, straight, or somewhere in between. We all want and deserve equal rights.
I feel blessed to be a parent at this time when I can watch my children grow up and describe friends not as black or white but as “the boy with light or dark brown skin.” In their classes of preschool and second grade there is every color of skin imaginable. The children in these classes don’t notice the differences of color or hair texture. They notice the similarities of mind and heart. Seeing this gives me hope for our future. One day these children who have grown up with no concept of race or discrimination will be our leaders. This isn’t to say that kids today aren’t educated about the history of the civil rights movement. They are, they just understand it in a different way.
Several weeks ago after hearing my son describe something as “gay,” we had a long talk about what it means to be gay and why it’s not acceptable to use that word in a derogatory way. I ended the discussion with telling him that no matter who he likes, girls or boys, we will always love him. He looked at me puzzled and said, “Mom I just like everyone. Is there a name for that?” I smiled to myself and thought, there is a name for that and it is hope.