We had our prelude to Black History Month in January where we learned all about Martin Luther King, Jr. and how to get people to be nice by giving them a sharp civil rights to the kidney.
This month we continued the celebration by playing GEEBEE’s Black History Memory game. I have pictures of us playing the game but… you know… the internet being down and all…
So the game arrived in the mail and the kids were stoked. You could send them a package of lentils in the mail and they’d be excited because it was a PACKAGE! They were pleased. I decided that the best way to teach them about black history was to tell them about these amazing people without bringing up the issue of race.
I wanted to raise them to be colorblind. So I told them we were going to play a game about heroes. The box includes a matching game and a booklet that gives a little bit of background about what made these artists, historic figures, scientists and inventors important. For example. Do you know anything about Buffalo Soldiers besides that they were dreadlock rastas, stolen from Africa, brought to America, fighting on arrival, fighting for survival? I didn’t either but now I do. The game also has a small section on culture where we learned about the history of Kwanza.
We started the game about heroes with no mention of their race and I was thinking I was pretty smart. My thought was that their accomplishments were pretty impressive on their own without the caveat of, “Oooo. Look what she accomplished even though she was black!” I wanted to just say, “Oooo. Look what she accomplished! What a great woman!”
But as we continued to play, I was truly affected by their stories not just because they were amazing people but because they were amazing people despite the way they were treated. The handicap was not the color of their skin but the way people treated them because of the color of their skin and that’s a lesson that needs to be taught. I decided to bring race to the forefront of the game.
My kids need to hear about race relations and they need to know that amazing men and women worked their way out of slavery and then went on to make a positive difference to the world. They need to know that Harriet Tubman was not content with her own freedom but worked to help thousands of others as well. They need to know that these people were black and how they were treated because they were black and they need to work to never let something like that happen again.
The sad thing is that it’s still happening. People are not considered equal in this country, not truly. Every time I fill out a form that asks for my race, I feel twinge of discomfort. I am Caucasian. My race shelters me and makes things easier for me in ways I’ll never fully understand and how is that fair?
I wasn’t honestly sure how much of the teaching was getting through to them as they enjoyed collecting matches and laughing together and only half-listened to the stories I was reading between turns.
But when we finished Laylee touched me on the arm and said, “I’m glad I wasn’t alive when there was slavers. I wouldn’t ever want to have been alive back when people cared about skin whether it was light or dark.”
I’m sad that she will grow to find out that some people do still care about skin but I’m glad to be teaching her what I think about it. If I raise the kids to be blind to differences in skin color, then someone who’s less blind to those differences will get the chance to teach them and I’d rather have the chance to let them know that their only “racial intolerance” should be towards inequality.