Roll Down Like Waters

Last January Sonny burst through the door after a day of kindergarten and cornered me in the hall. “Did you know,” he asked. “Did you know that there used to be laws that said kids with black skin could not go to school with kids with white skin?” He rattled off the names of several classmates. “They wouldn’t have been able to go to our school! And their school wouldn’t even have been very good!”

Sonny was agitated. He stared me down, wide-eyed and waiting. Waiting for disbelief, for shock, for indignation that matched his own.

I hope he always becomes incensed upon reports of injustice. I hope that he always expects the same reaction of others.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last month Sonny, Ace, and I were reading a story about Jackie Robinson and the abuse he endured upon joining major league baseball as the first African American to play Major League baseball: taunts, hate mail, racial slurs, physical attacks, threats to his life. Midway through the story I heard low growls beside me: Ace, who was flopping around on the couch, plainly uncomfortable.

“Don’t you want to hear the story?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “But this story hurts my feelings.”

I hope that stories of injustice always hurt his feelings.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel

Sonny and Ace belong to a demographic that doesn’t experience racism. We in this demographic can too easily be oblivious to racism—the subtle kind and even the not-so-subtle variety. We can secretly, or unsecretly, believe that the Civil Rights Movement mostly eradicated racism and that any “vestiges” of it might best be quietly endured because, really, haven’t we come a long way? We in this demographic can easily be tempted to cherry-pick examples of stories that suggest claims of racism are fabricated or exaggerated.

I don’t want Sonny and Ace to ease into these traps, to remain sheltered from the reality of injustices, to become impatient or bored at the mere topic of racism. Not when this kind of thing is still going on. I want them to be outraged despite being unaffected. What can I do to help ensure this? Any ideas?

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos 5:24


9 thoughts on “Roll Down Like Waters

  1. I am not a parent but was raised in a way that nurtured that flame in me that still lights up in anger in the face of injustice. I guess the secret is talking about it, in a true dialogue kind of way. Not just saying what you think or know about it, but to always let the child stay in touch with what feels right from him or her.

    Congratulations with your jems!

  2. For Aubrey, the two biggest take aways from kindergarten were the story of MLK and littering. I remember she was terrified when she learned about MLK’s death. Because she isn’t black or white, she didn’t understand how she fit into the story. I also remember having to clean up the Dollar General parking lot with her one day before we could enter the store. 🙂 When the next two kids went to school, I selfishly wished they would postpone the assassination part of the story and littering lessons so we could avoid nightmares and parking lot garbage detail.

    • Kindergarteners take things very seriously! Aw. I can see how she would wonder about her place in the story–it’s not just all black and white, is it?
      Maybe the teacher got a kickback from Dollar General!

  3. Sounds like some bullding blocks took place. Love the quotes. The questions about the shooting comes up every year. And this year I got a very profound question: How come he got shot if he was doing so much good? Who wouldn’t want that kind of good? ” Yeah, listen to those babes!

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