Lately I’ve had some good conversations with my children. They could be thought of as difficult conversations, or perhaps avoidable altogether, but I don’t take that approach. I lean in and listen to their little hearts and try to lead them gently to understand the ways of this world. Are you ready? Because these might be difficult conversations for you as well.
Modern day slavery. Civil rights. White privilege.
Hey, you’re still here. I thought I might have lost most of you right there.
Yes, I talk with my kids about slavery and white privilege. I care too much about racial reconciliation and fair labor practices to just keep quiet. I guess you could say I’m passionate. That might be an understatement. Ask my husband.
But, really, God LOVES all. Everyone. The poor. The rich. The infant. The elderly. The black. The white. Everyone.
Note: I don’t claim to know everything about modern slavery or white privilege. And I do my best to help my children understand these topics in a gentle way since they are still very young.
So, let me transport you to our car where you can peek inside our lives for a brief moment:
Mama, why don’t you let us get those toys from the dollar store?
Because they are so cheap and they will break quickly. (avoiding the real reason I despise those cheap dollar toys)
But, I don’t care, I want one anyway! It’s ok that it’ll break.
Ok, honestly, it’s because they are made by slaves.
But, I thought there weren’t any more slaves. It’s not allowed!
Well baby, not every country monitors how people are treated, and in many countries people need jobs so badly that they have to take whatever work they can get, even if it’s for so little pay that they can’t feed themselves or their family.
They could just leave and get a better job!
I wish they could, but there aren’t many jobs to choose from where they live.
So what about those guys, are they slaves? (pointing to two black men loading trash onto a trailer).
No, those men are working and getting paid. And if they don’t want that job, they could leave and get another one.
I’m never buying those dollar toys ever! And we should tell everyone else not to buy them. And we should tell everyone not to get kid’s meal toys and not to eat at [that fast food place]! I’m going to put a sign in our yard telling people not to eat at [that fast food place]!
(We’ve previously had discussions about my dislike of kid’s meal toys in case you couldn’t tell. And the particular fast food restaurant isn’t important. Really, all fast food toys are most likely made by modern day slaves.)
We can….(I reply hesitantly), but we really just need to do what we can and share that with others in hopes that they realize modern slavery is bad too. But, not everyone will make the same choices as us and that’s ok.
And now, we’re reading around the couch late at night. The kids chose the book called Freedom Summer(aff link), which tells the story of two best friends – one black, one white – and their journey toward integration. John Henry, the black boy, was looking forward to swimming in the private pool, but the day comes when he is allowed, and there is a work crew there filling up the pool with tar.
Why were they filling up the pool?
Because some of the white people didn’t want to swim with black people.
Why were the boys sitting on the diving board?
They were probably sad. John Henry had been looking forward to swimming in that pool and he didn’t get to.
It would be like something you look forward to, but can’t have. Like, if you couldn’t swim at Grandma’s pool, but really wanted to.
But, I can. What about something I can’t have?
Well, ok, like really wanting to drive, but you can’t yet.
Yes, but I’ll get to when I’m 16. It’s not the same.
You’re right, it’s not. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that you don’t have access to. You’re white. It’s very difficult for us to understand what it was like for blacks, what it’s still like at times.
Saying that out loud really hit it home for me, and I have no idea what’s going on in my child’s little head.
Well, what about a place where there’s lots of black people?
Honestly, most places still accept white people. There’s not any place that I know of where white people can’t go.
That pool owner won’t make any money! Ha.
Why don’t people want to swim with blacks?
Some people just didn’t like black people back then. And some people still don’t. But, we do and God does. God loves everyone. And we can continue to love everyone and show God’s love regardless of the color of anyone’s skin.
And he could go into the popsicle shop!
That’s right baby. In the end of the story, John Henry was able to go buy himself a popsicle.
More to read on the subject:
Books we love showcasing Black main characters (ages 2-8):