Sit Next To Me

I have a very strict rule about my kids not watching “grown-up TV”. Stuff that might seem harmless to others I seem to tear apart and analyze to a point of exhaustion even for me. That’s what writer, communication major type people tend to do I guess. As a general rule, the TV is never on in our house when the kids are around. We only watch it when the kids are sleeping or gone. Even if it seems like the most harmless little show. Sometimes I think it’s just words. Then I remember myself as a kid. There were so many times “just words” stuck with me. I want to wait until they are older and those words can be explained and understood. They are 5 and 6 so it might be a while before that happens. I know I’m one of the strict ones in this particular matter. I tend to do the opposite of what my parent(s) did. Always. Of course.

A bit ago I saw a news story about this white guy who didn’t want to sit next to a black old lady on the plane. He called her all sorts of names. Names we are not allowed to use these days. He said things we refuse to acknowledge even exist as a society amongst us. Oh, but how they do so exist.

That tiny video reminded me of a tiny little incident on a bus somewhere in a tiny town far away from us, and now. And here we are today. “What do I do?” I thought. This world. I live in it. I’m raising my children in it. Pretty soon they will not be little boys. Someone will not want to sit next to them because they look like those “terrorists” they keep mentioning everywhere. I want to turn back time. Nope. Move it forward? Isn’t that what Martine Luther King thought when he gave his “I have a dream” speech? I don’t want to stay in this time either. So how do I take control? My kid inched over to watch the video as he always does. This is the moment I usually turn off my phone. It was a split second decision to let him see the world, and let learn. This is how I take on the world. This is how I take control.

-“What are they fighting about?”

-“This man doesn’t want to sit next to this lady.”

-“Why?”

-“Because she looks different.”

-“That’s doesn’t make any sense.”

-“I know, that’s why it’s on the news.”

-“So he wants to be all alone?”

-“Wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have people who were different in our lives? His life must be so boring. It’s fun when you get to know different kinds of people from different places, who look different and act differently. Sometimes people from the exact same place can look different too. It makes the world colorful and fun, like art.”

-“Like me and Adam? And you and Daddy?”

My kids are fully aware that their dad and I are very different skin tones, and so are they. While all over the world it’s always been a difficult conversation in our house it’s always been pretty simple. Adam is very proud of his brown skin because that means he looks like his dad, and Dawud is very proud of his lighter color because that means he looks like his mom. There’s no denying what they look like. We have found pride in who they are just as we do in others people we meet and know.

Then we talked about all the interesting and fun things we have in our lives because we have visited all these places and met amazing people; everything that we would have never found out if we had never met those people. It was a casual conversation that made a 5-year-old realize that being mean to people just because they’re different “doesn’t make any sense”. The smart thing is to learn from them; to bring the good stuff forward so we can make the world a stronger place.

I can’t still guarantee that tomorrow when he’s all grown up someone will not refuse to sit next to him because of who he is or how he looks. I can guarantee you though, that I’m working as hard as I can to turn my boys into the kind of men who will recognize you for your culture, heritage, religion, color, and whatever else is important to you and then make a conscious choice to sit next to you.

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