Monday, January 21, 2013

Brown Eyed Child

My son is half African American and half white.   He is an amazing little boy who loves math and is kind to everyone.  He has amazing brown eyes and eyelashes that I would kill for.  Today I choose to reflect on my son because there are many circumstances surrounding today that are amazing for my boy.  

For starters it is Martin Luther King Jr. day.  No words that I could put down could reflect how important of a role that this man has and will play in the life of my child.   He became the face of a movement that has allowed my beautiful little boy the same opportunities as other children who may have had white fathers.   Thank you is not sufficient.

In addition, today was the second inauguration of President Obama.   I refuse to get into politics, but what I will say is that this man has shown little boys like mine everywhere that you can do anything, even be President of the United States.

I wish I knew a way to more eloquently put the importance, but I fear my words will fail me.  Instead I am borrowing from the words of my mother.   She wrote the following passage in either late 2009 or early 2010.   It was during this time that President Obama wished to address the children of this nation for the first time.  There was some controversy.  Ultimately, what I remember of it all was my mother's reflection on the circumstances.  Here is what she said; entitled "Brown Eyed Child."

This morning I looked in the deep brown eyes of my grandson and told him that the president of the United States would be speaking to him by video today. In the enthusiasm that only a kindergartner can muster, he glowed with excitement. I showed him President Obama’s picture and said, “Look, he has curly hair too, just like you—in fact he looks very much like you.” He stared at the picture and I thought about the fact that through his veins ran blood from both slaves and those who owned slaves.

Last Friday, as a volunteer at the public school where my daughter teaches and my grandson attends, I helped to hand out the flyers which told parents about President Obama’s speech. In this school of “95% free and reduced lunch” where many children did not speak English, I wondered how having a president try to encourage children could be a bad thing. When the school day ended, I stood and watched as a sea of brown hair, legs, arms, and bodies exploded from the 100 year old building and surged toward the line of busses. I thought about the flyers in their backpacks and the president who wanted to encourage them.

While watching the news over the weekend, I thought about the direction of our country. Educated in both the halls of academia and the pews of churches, I am familiar with the arrows aimed by both and honor those who maintain integrity. I am a conservative, but not a “hooligan”--a believer in social justice, but not a socialist. Over the years I have been equally proud and embarrassed by both sides of the isle. Just as many of our representatives and senators hadn’t read the health bill, I wondered how many Americans hadn’t actually read the president’s speech. Not wanting to be among that number, I Googled the speech and read.

What I found in the speech may not mean much for affluent America, but it did speak to the children who I saw running for the busses last week. I thought back to my visit to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic site in Topeka, Kansas where Monroe School stands as a reminder of America’s past with signs indicating areas for “colored” and “white”. I thought about my years in the Los Angeles area when I would see brown-eyed children looking out the windows of “integration busses” stuck in rush-hour traffic. I thought about the book, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, that I read to my pre-service teachers. I thought about all these things, and wondered if all Americans could, just for a moment, set their suspicions and agendas aside and allow our children to be proud of their president.

I told my grandson to listen well to this president who looked like him. I wonder if he is too young to understand when the president talks about having a single mother and how he missed having a father in his life. I know he is too young to make the connection between the president’s mother who taught him every day during his years in Indonesia and his own mother who is helping him learn his kindergarten sight words. I wonder if he will think of me when the president asks the children to listen to their grandparents. I hope so, and I also hope that I will somehow make a difference in the world he is going to inherit.

I hope he listens well today, this brown-eyed child who calls me Mema. I hope he listens when the president says, “We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems.” I hope all of us listen because the problems are great and the children need us to work together to make the world a better place.

So with her words I would just like to say, today was a good day for brown eyed children.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! You and your mother are both eloquent writers. As a kindergarten teacher I make a big effort to explain the significance of the day and the changes made in my lifetime by this peace-bringer: MLK, Jr. Thank you for sharing this with us all!