Homepage | Introduction | Parenting Columns | Travel Features | Misc. Musings | Contact | Purchase Info


Listen carefully
before jumping to the conclusion
your child is a racist.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

458 words

What If Your Child Sounds Like A Racist?
by Dianne Roth


Next Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In 1965, South Denver was essentially white. My high school of over 3,000 students, had only two people of color. One was a football star and without him the state title would have been out of reach. We cheered him on, loving his prowess on the field. Sadly, a few months after graduation, his body was found in an alley, a victim of violence.

The issues of prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination were foreign to 99% of us.
But, now I often think of Charlie and suspect that his high school years were not that great. I regret that I cannot sit with him and talk about the world we grew up in.

When it came to raising my own children, I decided that specific lessons in tolerance felt artificial. I didn't want them to be color-blind, I wanted them to be color-neutral. So I let nature take its course.

My oldest was six when we were driving through Astoria. He pointed to a black man walking on the sidewalk and announced, “That’s a bad man.” I was struck speechless! I could hardly breathe.

Soon, he pointed to another person, a white man, and made the same announcement. He kept pointing at people along the street, telling me they were bad. The variety of people included men and women, old and young, black and white.

Amazingly, I kept my mouth shut. When I could speak naturally, I asked, “What makes those people bad?”

His answer was simple. “They are strangers.” He was only trying out a new piece of information. I was the one who was not color-neutral.

He made my heart stop on another occasion. A tall, elgant, black man walked into the pizza parlor. He was wearing the most amazing patchwork leather pants and a purple fedora. My son’s eyes made contact, his brain went into high gear, and his mouth, always loud, began to engage. I was too far away to stuff a slice of pizza down his throat. He stood on his chair and yelled, “Look at that man’s pants!” Laughter filled the pizza parlour and the man cheerfully tipped his hat. I heard about those pants for weeks.

I am sure my son saw the differences, whether gender, age, color, or size. But the differences were not definitive. Surely, like all of us, he just filed bits of information away in order to recognize the new face when next they met.

So, each January I hope we are closer to Dr. King's dream; a dream that we all are judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

... or, by the elegance of our pants!


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Corvallis.



Last updated on October 8, 2012