The other day, while watching a scene in a movie that pointed to racial injustice my son asked, “Mom, I notice that all the guys who ask for money on the street in our neighborhood have brown skin. Why is that?” Granted this is a kid who doesn’t see race, only shades, something I love about where we live and the fact that the community, the school doesn’t make these distinctions. Since I was unsure of my own explanation–my Achilles heel is that I tend to over-explain–I asked our resident headmaster what he would have said to see how my own answer measured up. Here was Dr. Maksik’s answer:
“Well, first I’d say that there are lots of neighborhoods where people with white skin ask for money. Then, I’d say that sometimes we decide things about people too soon and then when we get to know them or their stories, we’re surprised. Then I’d ask him if he can remember a time when that happened to him. Then I’d say that it’s also true that for a lot of people with brown skin, it’s hard to find a job. And, when he asks why that is I’d talk a bit about how people have prejudices (and explain what they are) about those who are different from them.”
I liked that his answer was just vague and specific enough. Dr. Maksik’s answer reminds me that just enough information is enough. There will be plenty of opportunities to get into our country’s history.
I’d love to hear how some of you have answered this or some version of this question.