My son doesn’t know he’s black. He knows he’s dark skinned and that I’m lighter than him, and that his daddy is white, but he has no idea of the prejudice or history that comes with the dark pigmentation of his skin in this country. He has no knowledge of the slave trade, Jim Crow laws, the Emancipation Proclamation, riots, marches and speeches that highlight the Civil Rights Movement. He has no clue as to what has happened in Ferguson, McKinney, Cleveland, or Sanford. He has no understanding of the meaning behind the statement, “black lives matter.” He has no idea people would ever be treated differently because of the color of their skin.
My son doesn’t know the painful history that’s afflicted the African American community in America, but he will. I’m sure it won’t be long before it will be pointed out to him that he’s different than his parents and that he is indeed black. By the time he’s in grade school he’ll learn every February about black history in America. He’ll learn that freedoms haven’t always been available, and the fact that we are even a family made of different colors is evidence of liberty in word and deed.
As he learns of the pains of the past he’ll also learn of the gains that have come from ordinary people choosing to live extraordinary lives. He’ll learn of the suffering, triumph and victory peacemakers have had over decades. He’ll learn about the bravery of Harriet Tubman, the grit of Rosa Parks, the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., the determination of Jackie Robinson, the vision of John Perkins and countless other freedom fighters. He’ll learn of the laws passed, ground gained and the freedoms known today. He’ll learn we’ve come a long way as a country, but there is still road to cover and ground to take in the pursuit of racial equality and reconciliation.
My son is black and he doesn’t know it yet, but there will come a day when he does. For now he’s content to use different crayons to color the skin of those he loves, and to him, love and trust isn’t assigned to just one color, love and trust is given to those who’ve earned it. Even at 4-years-old, he understands that love and trust are the building blocks of relationships, and the road to forgiveness and unity. Love and trust can extinguish flames of hate and fear. Love and trust can build ties of strength where there have been screams of bigotry, discrimination and division. Love can do that.