Keeping an Open Mind in Every Way

sisterSTAFF Blog

Keeping an Open Mind in Every Way

March 1, 2011

This past week was pretty uneventful—which is a good thing!  Well, except that I woke up on Thursday morning with a really painful arm/shoulder.  At first, I thought I had just slept on it wrong, but the pain was pretty bad and when it was still there on Saturday, I just knew it was something else.  Then, I remembered reading about frozen shoulder in one of the “Ask our CDE” columns.   By Monday, the pain had eased up, but made a mental note to ask the physical therapist I was seeing on Wednesday (for recovery from my bunionectomy) about it.  When I asked her today, she said it was likely from something I did in Zumba Class last Wednesday.  She showed me some exercises to do if it ever happens again and told me not to hold the arm up against me (in a protective stance) because that is what causes frozen shoulder to set in.  (It can set in within 48 hours of the injury!)  She also told me that, as a woman with diabetes, I am more prone to frozen shoulder.

Race is not something I talk about often, but having a bi-racial daughter really puts the world into perspective sometimes.  During the month of February--Black History Month—my daughter, who is in kindergarten, really enjoyed the celebratory nature created at her school.  She was excited to come home each day and tell us who they were studying and what she learned.  She also had a great time singing with her class in the school’s presentation for Black History Month.  What was very noticable was how incredibly innocent and naive children are at this age, especially when it comes to skin color.  The racism and prejudice we see in the world are not inherent.  Our kids must be taught to think that way.  Unless we tell our kids negative things about differences, such as skin color, race, physical disabilities, etc., they have no reason to view them negatively.

At the beginning of the month, Summer came home and excitedly told me the story of Rosa Parks.  She talked about how the Rosa Parks was sitting in the front of the bus and the white people asked her to move to the back of the bus and she refused.  She went on to say, “Mommy, did you know Rosa Parks changed history because it went all the way to the Supreme Court?”  “Yes, “I answered her.  But, you could still see the confusion in her face when she said, “I still don’t understand why they told her to go to the back of the bus.”  In her mind, it was there was no that they could have told her to move because of the color of her skin.  When I told her that it was because Rosa was black and, back then, black people were expected to sit at the back of the bus.”  The look of true shock on her face was something I will remember forever.  My sweet, little, innocent girl was uncovering the harsh realities of the world.  It was sad…truly.  Yet, at the same time, it was empowering to know that her dad and I have  instilled in her the idea that skin color is not important.  It’s not that we spend a lot of time discussing skin color….I think it’s quite the opposite—it’s that we don’t pay attention to skin color and we don’t waste time discussing someone’s skin color because it is irrelevant.   Summer and I went on to have a discussion about how the color of someone’s skin doesn’t have anything to do with their value as a person.  Then, she looked at me and said, “Well, I guess they would have told me to sit in the middle of the bus—because I’m half white and half black.”

The next week of February, the class discussed Martin Luther King, Jr.  We had more lively discussions about how he brought black people and white people together.  Chris and I both told her how thankful we were for all the work he did because if it was not for him, we would not be together and Summer would have never been born.  When we went on to explain that it used to be against the law for “brown” people (as she often says) to marry “tan” people, her face showed a sense of shock and bewilderment.  You could see the wheels turning in her head and her thinking about there actually being laws in place to keep me from being with her dad.

The last week in February, on our drive home one day, she said, “Mommy, did you know there are these bad white people who put white things over their head and go around being mean to black people?”  When I answered, “yes, “she continued, “They’re called the KKK, but I don’t know why they’re called that.  They should just call them the mean white people who don’t like black people.” I then replied, “Yes, that would be the easy, clear cut way to do it.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for all of us to look at people through the eyes of an innocent, naïve five-year-old—and, more importantly, to keep that view of people throughout life.  It is so unfortunate that we have to burst our kids’ bubbles so soon by introducing them to the many harsh realities of the world.  I just want to keep my sweet little girl in that bubble for as long as I can….

The next time you encounter a situation that might cause you to think prejudice thoughts or act in a prejudice way toward someone of a different race, I ask you to remember that that person was once an innocent, naïve little child (like my Summer) who saw everyone as equal until their world was abruptly interrupted with the harsh realities of prejudice, racism, sexism, etc.  Deep down, they are still an innocent child at heart.  But, it’s the world that has hardened them.