My 10-year-old son is biracial; I am Egyptian and my husband is black. I want my son to know the history of his races, the good and the bad. He didn’t really notice we were a biracial family until he was about 6 years old.
Someone in his class pointed out his skin was darker than theirs. When he came home, he put his arm up to mine and asked me why my skin was a little lighter than his. I told him he was a mixture of his father and me.
For the first time in his life, he was noticing skin color.
When Martin Luther King Jr. Day came around that year, I wanted my son to learn from his father and me who King was before he went to school and heard about him from his teacher or classmates. We read a book together called, “The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.,” by Johnny Ray Moore. The board book had detailed illustrations of broken playground equipment for the “colored” children to play on, separate drinking fountains and restaurants for whites only.
As he began to process this new information, he realized he would have a different life if he had lived during segregation.
The books we read up until that point were typical happy children’s books. This was a harsh dose of reality.
It was difficult for me to watch my son process this, but it was much more difficult for his ancestors to live through.
I want him to know that his grandmother -— someone he loves with all his heart — was forced to ride in the back of the bus.
When she was a child, the Ku Klux Klan marched through the streets of her hometown, Plainfield, N.J. If she wanted to go to the theater, she could only sit in the balcony.
When she visited her grandmother in Savannah, Ga., she couldn’t sit on a public park bench to listen to the birds sing because she was black.
I don’t want my son to feel hatred in his heart when he hears these stories. Instead, he should know his grandmother took action.
When she was 16 years old, she was the head of a youth group of the Plainfield NAACP. In 1954, she went to San Francisco to the annual NAACP meeting. Roy Wilkins was the executive director.
She heard Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, King and civil rights activist Rosa Parks talk about integrating schools.
That was the beginning of the civil rights movement.
I want him to speak up when he sees injustice around him and do something about it like they did, like his grandmother still does.
My son is lucky to have two fantastic black role models, his father and grandmother. His grandmother, a single mother, raised my husband alone in New York City.
She made sure he got a good education and stayed out of trouble.
She worked hard to make advancements in her career. She began as a receptionist for television host Merv Griffin and, eventually, worked her way up to a management position at the NBC network.
I’m so proud of what my mother-in-law accomplished. She raised my husband to be a responsible man who went on to medical school and became a surgeon.
We don’t wait until February to talk about black history in our family. It’s part of our lives every day.