How Do You Approach Racism with Your 5-Year-Old?

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Happy Monday and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! My hubs is at work today, but I get to spend the whole day with my girls. We kicked off our day with purple M&M pancakes and are hoping to squeeze in an episode of the Great British Baking Show. Anyone else addicted to that show? We got hooked over the weekend!

Today’s topic is a bit different that my traditional fashion or lifestyle post and I’m kinda pumped for that. I love talking about all things fashion, but if I never approached hard subjects, I would be being dishonest to myself and to you. Don’t get me wrong, I have touched on hard topics before like my postpartum journey and having a hysterectomy at 30. But, I’ve realized I tend to shy away from controversial or hard topics in general as I don’t want to upset anyone. Yes, that’s the people pleaser in me.

So moving forward, I’m going to be braver about having real conversations here about real topics, hard topics, controversial topics. etc. I think as humans, as women, and especially as moms, we need to have these hard conversations. It’s how we’ll learn and how we’ll effect those around us including our kids. You in?

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As Emma Grace has entered into Kindergarten it’s become extremely apparent to me that I need to be ready to answer some hard questions. She is having conversations about tough things and seeing new things that she may not have seen or heard about before. Things that range from small things like the truth about Santa to bigger, more important issues like racism. This year has been eye-opening for both Emma Grace and me. I cannot protect her from the hurt and pain and ugly in the world and nor do I want to. But, I do need to be on my game.

I want to be ready so that I get to help shape the narrative and so that I am the one she comes to when she wants to process through something. I want her to see these issues as they are and to learn to respond in a way where other’s will see God’s love pouring out through her.

This past Friday on the way to school Emma Grace and I had one such hard conversation. It started simple – I told her we were going to have a holiday on Monday. Naturally, being the holiday celebrators we are, she asked me what holiday we were getting to celebrate. I told her it was a day honoring a very special person – Martin Luther King Jr. Again, naturally, she asked who he was and why we would celebrate him. I cringed inside hating that I was going to now introduce her to racism, but honored to tell her of the great MLK. Our conversation went roughly like this:

ME: “Well babe, a long time ago white people did not treat black people the same. They thought because their skin was white, they were better than people with black skin. They treated them ugly and did not give them the same rights that we have. It was very sad and not how God wants us to act. Martin Luther King Jr was a black man who fought for black people and fought to get them the same rights as white people.”

EG: “He did?”

ME: “Yes, except he didn’t fight by kicking or hitting. He fought respectfully by giving speeches and holding marches. He was loving and respectful the whole time. He was a pastor and showed God’s love to others. Do you remember the song that goes ‘red, brown, yellow, black, and white, all are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world?”

EG: “Yes! Was that song made for MLK?”

ME: “No, but it tells us about the way God sees and loves all people. What does God care about? Do you think God cares about our skin color?”

EG: “No. He doesn’t care if you have black or white or tan skin. He doesn’t care if you’re tall or short or big or small. He just loves the inside, mommy.”

ME: “That’s exactly right babe. He loves all people equally despite how they look. And that’s exactly how we should love other people and that’s exactly what Martin Luther King Jr was fighting for.”

EG: “Was he an apostle?”

ME: “Haha, no, but he sure acted like one. He tried to spread God’s message and God’s love daily and we are called to do the same thing.”

Tough convo, right? After that short conversation, I dropped Emma Grace off at school and we both went about our day. Then later that night as we were tucking the girls in, I asked Emma Grace to tell me something she learned at school today. I was thinking something like a new math problem or something from PE, but she brought up MLK again. I’m not sure if she was rehashing our conversation or if they touched on this at school, too. Either way, what she said blew me away and brought me and my husband to tears.

Emma Grace told us that long ago white people did not treat black people equally. They thought they were better than black people and did not treat them with kindness. And then the bomb – “and some white people still treat black people this way today.” Um…what. I know for a fact I didn’t say that. I was stunned and so saddened. Her eyes had been opened to the reality of today. I asked her several times who told her that and she never answered.

I share this with you all today just as an encouragement to us mommies and daddies to not shelter our kids from the world. To be prepared to answer the hard questions. To make you aware that you are shaping the way your child will respond and act toward issues like racism. Racism is absolutely alive and well still. If a 5-year-old can see it, what more evidence do you need. I just hope that like Martin Luther King Jr, my girls will see the beauty in every person, every color, and every size.

Emma Grace and Abby are my girls. They are my girl gang. I vow to raise them to be strong women and to fight for what is right. I vow to raise them to love every single person no matter their life choices and a no matter how they look. I vow to raise my girls to love others the way Jesus would love them – with an unconditional, unfailing love.

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me // shirt: little foot clothing co c/o | denim: similar | shoes: converse

girls // shirt: little foot clothing co c/o | dress: grey, black c/o little foot clothing co | shoes: gap

photography: fort lion studio