Tuesday, January 22, 2008

About Race...and who killed MLK

We read Martin's Big Words now and again. I wouldn't call it a bookcase favorite or anything but since yesterday was MLK day and there was not so much peace here on the cul-de-sac I thought..."Hey, what the heck. Let's read this at bedtime." I think Ava "got it" on a different level this time. She is just beginning to understand what not being white is. And when you have to explain what "not being white" is to the sweetest most adorable little kid in the world whom you would throw yourself in front of a truck for, well, it stings. It stings like a pang of sour milk in the deepest pit of your gut. And then it resonates...hanging on like a dull headache that even 3 Advil will not help.

Last time we read the book she argued that she was white. "Look at my skin, Mommy. It's pretty much the same color as yours." Yes, I said...pretty close. But you were born in China...and your birthparents were Chinese, that means you are Asian." I say. "But you are Caucasian and grandma and grandpa are Caucasian." she rattled off in defiance. "You are adopted, and OUR skin color or race does not take away from the fact that you and your sister are Asian. Nothing will ever take that away from you." I say. I then tell her that I don't want anyone to ever tell her that she is not Asian, or somehow less of one race and more of another due to circumstances beyond her physical control. "Stand up, be yourself and don't be afraid to originally define whatever it is that makes you, YOU." I tell her on my bedside soapbox.

Last night there was no argument about skin color. There was no comparison of hands or eyes. She knows she is Chinese, Chinese American to be exact. As we read the book her focus was on injustice, not skin color. She just couldn't believe that someone would want to hurt Martin Luther King. She asked who killed him. I couldn't remember. I had to tell her I would Google it today. After school I will tell her it was James Earl Ray. That should be an interesting conversation to have with a 6 year old.

The very last thing she asked was if she could have a Martin Luther King Day party next year. She told me I could read the book to her friends and we would design party invitations. Then she asked if we could do a Martin Luther King craft too. I told her I wasn't sure if Martin was into crafts but sure we would come up with something.

I told her I thought Martin might like that. Next year, we are having a MLK peace party. If you're in town you're invited.


Space Mom said...

Hey, we had cake for MLKjr yesterday, you can have a party.

We've explained that he wanted to change the world just so what people DID and SAID mattered more than what they looked like. And I think that Soleil has understood this. And she understands that some people didn't want the change and that he died because they were afraid of change....

But yeah, pretty heavy stuff

Johnny said...


nikki said...

Smart kid.
Gotta love her...wish I could come to the party.

Jboo said...

Great conversation with your girl! She sounds wise beyond her years.

Thanks for the comment on my blog the other day. Maddy is from Southern China -- Wuchuan in the Guangdong province.


OziMum said...

I hope you're ready for all Ava's friends to pop a hundred questions out to ya!!!

Ava is such a kind considerate little girl. A party is a great idea!