I’ll never forget the first time that my youngest son recognized that I was a different color than him. He was about 5 years old. We were sitting on the couch cuddled together with our arms all tangled up. His beautiful brown arm and my very white arm looking like a half baked pretzel. He was just staring at our arms, and I could tell he was thinking really hard.
Finally he looked up at me with complete sincerity, and with sympathy said; “Dad…you’re REALLY white”. He felt sorry for me. It was both a very funny moment and a beautiful one. He was completely innocent, untouched by any kind of prejudice. We have obviously had many great discussions since then. Being a multi-racial family affords natural opportunities all the time.
Years later, I remember coming home one day to find my son sitting on the floor looking through one of our photo books on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The book was sitting on his lap open to the photos of the Birmingham riots. He sat staring at the infamous photo of people being blasted with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs because of the color of their skin. When I walked in, he looked up at me with the most heartbreaking, quizzical look of confusion. His eyes pleading for an answer…”Why?” His look just about brought me to my knees.
How do you explain hatred and violence to a child, when it doesn’t make any sense to begin with? Just try explaining it, and you’ll find out how the explanations begin to sound as lame and insane as the actual acts and attitudes you’re attempting to unravel.
In our work with Love146 the question of “Why?’ rages daily. Why do people prey upon the most vulnerable and innocent among us? Why are we not doing more to stop the exploitation of children? Why do we often remain bystanders while so many suffer?
I wonder if the answer to the “why” questions has to do with love.
In the movie, Midnight in Paris, the character that plays Ernest Hemingway says; “All cowardice comes from not loving…or not loving well, which is the same thing.” Poet Elizabeth Alexander wrote: “What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.”
No doubt that these are extreme times. What we desperately need are extremists. Not right wing or left wing extremists. Not religious or political extremists. But the kind of extremist that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about from that small jail cell in Birmingham; “So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?”
I hope we choose love. For my children, and all children’s sake. Even for our own sake.
President & Co-founder, Love146
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