Yesterday was the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (his birthday is actually the 15th). I asked H about it and he said that he didn't know what the big deal was. I told H if it weren't for Martin Luther King, he would be treated unfairly because he was Korean. Like he has so many times before, H protested that he was not Korean but English. I told him yet again that if his parents are Korean, people will treat him as a Korean, no matter how well he speaks English. I then asked him how he would feel if he had to go sit on the back of the bus, not be allowed to eat at certain restaurants, not be allowed to vote, not drink from the same water fountain, etc as white people. He said he wouldn't like it. But I have this feeling that he doesn't really get it.
Part of the problem being that where we live, there are no white people except our senior citizen neighbor Bob. R had a white friend, L. They played video games and had playdates and everything everything together. Then L moved away because his mom wanted to get him out of the ethnic homogeneity of our neighborhood. I can't even call it a community because there is no community. Nobody knows anyone because everyone keeps to themselves and interacts only with their own ethnicities. Being Korean, we're the outliers here so we have no alternative but to make friends with our Indian and Chinese neighbors.
How do you teach racial tolerance or equality in a place where you are the minority majority? If you live your entire life in the Bay Area, how do you even begin to understand or appreciate the civil rights movement spurred by Dr. King's bravery? When we lived in Los Angeles, I had white and Latina friends to break the homogeneity of my Asian friendships. One of my good friends was married to a wonderful black man, so we saw him occasionally and his kids frequently. Now I live in a place where I don't interact with a single black or Latino person for weeks, if not months. I cling to my white friends from MOPS through our monthly Bunco nights even though I really don't have time since I would lose all connection to them otherwise. I wonder, how do I teach my kids about color when there are entire shades in the color spectrum missing from our daily existence? They're definitely too young to go watch Selma and words don't seem to be sinking into their consciousness. They teach the importance of the holiday and Dr. King's work in school but to them MLK is a day off school, nothing more.
As usual these random thoughts of a random mommy are stuck in the denouement with no resolution. I do know this, though, I too hope that my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I pray that God equips me to teach them to have a character that is honest, fair, trustworthy, brave and loving. I thank God that he gave Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the courage to stand up for TRUTH.