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How Does A White Mom Teach Her Black Son About Martin Luther King, Jr?

How A White Mom Teaches Her Black Son About Martin Luther King Jr.

5 years ago, when Hubbalicious and I decided to embark upon an adoption journey, we had no idea what our future held. We knew we wanted a family, but that’s about as far as it went. Boy, Girl, Black, White, Smurf, California Raisin… we didn’t even care enough to put thought into it. All we wanted was to have a child who was happy and healthy, and to experience the joys of parenting. And that’s exactly what we got.

Over the course of the 4 years since we adopted our Liberian son, many people have asked what agency we used for our international adoption. But the truth is, we didn’t seek out an international adoption. In the most divinely random way, we just happened to be picked by an African woman who had moved to the Houston area and had made the decision to place her child for adoption. We were thrilled, of course! Oh sure, we were vaguely aware of the fact that we would have a whole set of different things to teach our new son someday… (white girl trying to style an afro anyone?) but we didn’t fully understand them, I’m still not sure we do. But experience is teaching us and the fact remains that he’s getting older and questions will continue to arise. We’re in a unique situation where we won’t just be answering questions about why he didn’t come from Mommy’s tummy, we’ll also be answering questions about why we look different. I am a big believer that it’s best to be ready to teach, as soon as your child lets you know he’s ready. So how do you prepare?

It’s with these thoughts in mind that we began to think about Martin Luther King, Jr and this day we set aside to celebrate the accomplishments of that great man. I want my son to know and understand who he was, what he did, and the impact it still has on our everyday world. Of course, at 4 years old, he’s not ready to hear about the many great injustices and hardships that black people faced back then. In fact, I would venture to say, that he doesn’t even understand that he’s different than us yet. He definitely hasn’t mentioned it. And I don’t feel the need to bring it to his attention before he’s ready. As I said earlier, I believe kids will lead the way and you’ll know when they are ready to take their learning and understanding one step further.

So how does an incredibly white woman such as myself teach her beautiful Liberian son about Martin Luther King, Jr? One might be thinking (silently, so as not to cross any PC lines) that we will relate to MLK in totally different ways. One might even be thinking that I can’t relate at all. And to those I would say, “Maybe I thought the same thing.” In fact, it might even be true. But there’s one thing I have learned over the course of the 4 years I’ve spent in a multi-racial family, and that is that I don’t have to relate to MLK in every way to be ever grateful for what he’s done. And that’s what I want to teach my son. Because the truth is, if our world continues to grow and move forward, and in the face of the many ways the “traditional family” is changing… my son may not relate to him either. And that would be a wonderful gift.

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr, I will teach my son about the peace and love that he gave his life for. I will try and show my son the ways in which MLK made our world better and just as importantly, I will try to teach him how HE can make this world better. Because just as everything he did was inspiring, so was the simple fact that he stood up for what he believed in and made a difference. And our kids can too! Isn’t that also what I, as a mother, should be teaching him?

I’ll never be as eloquent as the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr… but I too, have a dream. A dream that my son will grow up in a world where he knows how much I love him, and how much I believe in the person he can be. I dream that he will grow up and do whatever it is that makes him happy…. that he will marry whomever he loves, without fear of prejudice. It’s a good dream, and because of MLK, I think we are on our way. For that, my family thanks you, Dr. King.

Leah Sannar

2 comments… add one
  • RaNesha W July 11, 2016, 5:04 am

    Take him to the memorial and explain to him why MLK is it important. He stood for everyone.

    • Leah Sannar July 13, 2016, 5:25 pm

      I love that idea. That sounds awesome. Thanks for your input!

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