Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dear Grown-Ups Working Hard to Break Down Racial Barriers

Dear Grown-Ups Working Hard to Break Down Racial Barriers,

I see you at the peace rallies, going out of your way to shake hands with everyone two shades browner than you.  I see you at church, walking way across the pews to welcome the new African-American family.  I know that you attend the MLK breakfast every year and some years you even bring your kids to march with you.  And was that you I saw at the Human Rights Commission banquet last fall?  Wasn't that you who showed up at the Trayvon Martin community discussion a few years ago too? And you always, always call the servers at China King and Mariachi's by their full names and ask them how their kids are doing.  The server at Olive Garden rarely gets that kind of love.

Here's the thing.  I think you might be complicating things. You see, I'm not even in second grade yet, so I can't do most of the things that you do - that is unless my parents make me.  And boy, they sure do.  Because like you, they also want me to live in that magical world that Dr. King speaks of in that children's book they read to me every January.  You know, where kids of all different colors play together. The funny thing is that, they keep talking about that world like it's one of those mythical realms on my favorite show, Adventureland, with rainbows and talking unicorns.  I don't understand why grown-ups always seem to be trying so hard when I already live in that world.  And really, it's no big deal.

This weekend I turned 7 and the grown-ups threw a birthday party for me.  They told me I could invite anyone I wanted to.  So I invited my friend Viktor, who was my very first friend in my very first daycare class when we were both just three months old!  Our moms keep in touch on Facebook and we've managed to have a few play dates since then even though we don't go to the same school.  And I invited my classmate, Gregory who was just as shy as I was in kindergarten.  His big sister helped translate my mom's directions into Spanish for Gregory's dad over the phone.  And I invited Telson, this totally awesome kid (from New York City just like in Home Alone!) that my mom introduced me to.  He goes to my school, but we're in different classes.  And Thurgood with the cool haircut, who sat with me at morning assembly everyday during first-grade.  And I invited my neighbor Elijah, my friends Colin, Jack H., Jack P., my classmates Rian and Wiley.  And the grown-ups wanted me to meet some friends of theirs who had two kids - Karston and Sadie.  And since the grown-ups were showing us a kids movie in the backyard, I told them to bring their whole families - brothers and sisters and all!  And at the end of the night, there were 20 kids from ages 3 - 12 running around my backyard, gulping up 80 beef, turkey, and tofu hot dogs.  And I never really noticed, but 12 of those kids (including me) were all different shades of brown.

And that's just my world.  It's not some magical land that I dream of, strive for, work towards.  It's my reality.  These are my friends that I play with, exchange toys with, make s'mores with, and play freeze tag with.  Sometimes I even fight with them, but we always make up.  These are the people I invite into my home, not to make some point or some big social statement, but simply because I like them.  And they like me.  Period.  I wonder when the grown-ups will figure out that they too can be a part of our "magical" world.  All they have to do is live it.

Jack M., Age 7

Photo credit: Jessica H.

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