Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dreams Can Come True

Over the weekend, Miss Pink wanted to know why she didn't have school on Monday. I explained that it was the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a great man who wanted everyone to treat each other equally.

"See, African American people were not treated equally in those days. They had to sit on the back of the bus even if there was room at the front, and they had to give up their seat if a white person wanted it. They even had to drink at separate water fountains from white people."

I left out the marches and the dogs and Dr. King getting shot--heck, I left out slavery itself--because I had no way to explain that kind of hatred to a six-year-old child who loves everyone she's ever met. But she still got the point.

"Mama, that's wrong!"

"I know. And Dr. King had a dream that those things would change, and we wouldn't treat people differently because of the color of their skin."

Miss Pink is not color-blind. She knows that some of her friends have skin that is darker than hers (like me, she is as pale as it is possible to be.) But she is color-indifferent. She just doesn't care what color someone is. She knows that people come in many colors, and that all of those colors are beautiful. When I see her holding hands with some of her African-American and Hispanic classmates, I think of Dr. King saying that he had a dream that "one day... little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls as sisters and brothers."

I'm so glad I've seen that dream come true.

And today another dream came true as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. I don't think I understood how many obstacles we'd had to overcome as a nation to get to this point, until I heard a historian on TV explain that no black man had ever been invited to the White House until Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, or that the first fully integrated Inauguaration wasn't until JFK's in 1961. 1961! That's during my parents' lifetime. I may not have understood it, but I'm sure people of color knew all about the obstacles that said to them, "You can't have this. You can't go there. You aren't allowed."

And now those barriers are broken.

I'm not the first person or even the first blogger to say this, but I'll say it anyway: I'm so glad that my children will grow up in an America where the idea of a black President is normal. Nothing to be surprised about, just part of their reality. They will need to learn about the shameful aspects of our history, but they will already know that change can come to America. People's hearts can change. And it all began with a dream.



  1. This is a perfect post.

    My son just couldn't understand why it was a big deal.

    "Why would the color of his skin matter?"


  2. I just had an almost identical talk with my daughter yesterday as well and she too finds the past hard to believe. Now if we could just train some adults to be as open-minded... ;) Great post!

  3. I'm so glad, too, that while my children understand that this is a historic event, to them, it seems not at all strange that an African-American should be president. Welcome to the new normal. I like.

  4. I'm glad the little one knows the story behind... and most importantly how significant it is to have a brand new beginning for USA.

  5. One thing that really stood out for me was how my nine year old really did not get why this was signifigant - which really is a beautiful thing.

  6. As for the "historian" on tv, his assertion that Booker T Washington was the first black in the White House is false. Abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were both guests in the White House during the Civil War.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly. It bugged me how some people disdained the reaction of African Americans, which shows they have no concept of the struggle. To have marched with Dr. King and to have also attended this inauguration must have been an incredible experience!