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Not Just a Day Off (19 of 365)

Not Just a Day Off (19 of 365)

January 19, 2009


This is what we did during breakfast this morning. Watched Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech and talked about civil rights.

My children watch the speech and think that it was something in the very distant past. After all there wasn’t even color tv back then! They can not even grasp why people would care about the color of the skin of someone else.

“But, why?” they keep asking.

I have no answer.

“People don’t still think that, do they?” they ask.

Tommorrow we will watch Barack Obama become the 44th president of the United States.

And I am thankful that this is their normal.

Posted by Chris @ 10:46 am  

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  1. divrchk says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m thrilled that we are inaugurating our first black President–about time, too. But I think it’s insanely naive to think that the color of his skin has nothing to do with his election. To teach our children that “no one thinks that anymore” is to gloss over the harder parts of our culture and deny the less desirable parts of our human nature. Facts are important, but honesty is better.

    Chris says: If you read closely you would notice that I did NOT write what my answer was to that question. I was only making the point that my children are incredulous that people judge others by the color of their skin. Also, though it isn’t evident from the photo I was writing about a conversation I had with children who are 8, 5, and 4. I am not glossing over anything. The conversation I have with them is not the same conversation I have with teenagers.

    Next time don’t comment anonymous. I know who you are.

  3. shannon in oregon says:

    goose bumps

  4. Heather says:


  5. Tater Mama says:

    GREAT post and a wonderful reply to your anonymous commenter.

  6. Ann says:

    It is amazing. I’m taking the day off of work tomorrow to watch the event!

  7. Suzan says:

    I took the day off from work tomorrow to watch all of the inaugural events. My boss told me he could’t understand why I would “waste” a vacation day. It’s not a big deal. Perhaps not to him, however, I remember segregation. I remember footage of dogs and police officer’s attacking people for no other reason than the color of their skin. The inauguration of this President IS a big deal. It will forever change our country and certainly will be one of the highlights of my lifetime. Kudos to you for showing your children MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.

  8. suburbancorrespondent says:

    Thanks for the link.

    As for Anonymous, I think it is possible to have voted for Obama (as I did) without regard for his skin color, while at the same time to be excited by the momentous nature of his Inauguration, black history-wise speaking.

  9. Wendy 2 says:

    Oh how I wish it were true that no one notices color of skin anymore, I’m so glad my kids don’t seem to. I love that our children’s normal is no longer that close-minded.

  10. christie says:

    I’m glad you clarified that you were working with your younger children — I have 5.5yo twins and have struggled a bit with explaining these issues at an appropriate level. I’ve leaned toward clear and honest and trying not to overdo — it’s tricky. Thanks for this post.

  11. Sherry says:

    My oldest daughter is six and her best friends are one white girl, one black girl, and one girl from Pakistan. She comes home where her mother is white and her father is black. She has no understanding of racism and I wish that the whole world could be like the kids who don’t see a difference in people based on the color of their skin.

    Thanks for this post, I think that I’ll show her the video when she gets home from school today.

  12. Ruth H says:

    It is amazing to me how normal changes. I am 72 and had “colored” children as playmates in racist Oklahoma. Colored was the polite word to use for them. Negro was the official word, we all know the other word. We actually did put on plays and productions in the barn like the Little Rascals. I did not hear the racial slur words until we moved to South Texas after WWII and even then we lived in an area with almost no black people. (and if we had called them black in those days it would have been an insult!) Later when I moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, traveled through the south to get there, I truly knew what segregation was. It was awful.
    I am glad you live in a world where your children don’t understand why skin color should matter. If you lived in a lot of places, not necessarily the south, they would probably has seen where it mattered to some. 90% of blacks voted for Obama so it obviously mattered to them, and with very good reason.
    Again it is amazing how normal changes, I wonder what the next 75 years will bring.

  13. Sus says:

    My daughter has been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. at school for the past week or so (2nd grade) and each evening she comes home increasingly outraged. She asked, “Did you KNOW that a lady wasn’t allowed to ride in the front of a bus?” Then, “That’s just so DUMB.”

    I love their normal too.

  14. Amanda says:

    A wonderful way to share the spirit of the day.

  15. Stephanie says:

    Nope, sorry, “anonymous’” comment wasn’t from me this time. The funny thing is, I was going to actually give you kudos for having this racial discussion and “lesson” with your little ones. I thought it was very progressive and wonderful.

  16. Kalisa says:

    I can remember, growing up in the 70s, wondering why it would be such a big dot deal that Kennedy was the first Catholic president.

    I hope my son - or at least my grandchildren, one day - will grow up not getting why it was such a big deal that Obama was black.

  17. CaliforniaGrammy says:

    I am thrilled we are where we are today, absolutely thrilled. Our work will continue forever, for “perfection” is a long way off. I love that our kids and grandkids will not have to go through what we went through, especially in the 60s. And we honor Martin Luther King for all he did to start the equal rights movement rolling.

  18. Jan says:

    It’s nice that they said that, but I would love to hear your answer. I grew up in a setting more like what your kids have (judging from the pictures!). I have chosen to raise my kids in a city — residential area, but urban nonetheless and to send them to public schools. They have been in “the minority” in all their classes from Kindergarten on up, again, consciously on the part of my husband and I.

    While I was raised to not judge people by the color of their skin, either, I can’t say that I really *knew* many people who were very different than I was — not in skin color, not in socioeconomic status, etc. The richness of my kids’ experience is not only heartening to me, it’s also far more informed than my experience — they don’t just read about issues, they see them happening.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that Yes, there are many people in this country (and world) who judge people by their skin (and various other non-chosen attributes) and that’s important information. But it is hard to express accurately and in an understandable way to younger children (like my 6 year old — who does “see” color — he knows to color in some friends with one crayon and other friends and himself with another, but he doesn’t seem to make bigger generalizations). In part, I think, because there just aren’t that many other little white boys in his class — he has to see the people he *knows* as individuals, not just people he knows about.

  19. kelly says:

    This is amazing.

    My parents are less racist than their parents; my siblings and I are much less racist than our parents; and like your kids, my nieces don’t get the concept. I just LOVE that.

    They go to public schools and can’t even fathom not being able to go to the same school, sit next to, or be friends with some of the kids in their classes.

    I am hoping that racism, hunger, cancer, and AIDS will be abolished in their lifetime. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll happen in mine.

  20. Liesl says:

    Wow. Thanks for being an amazing teacher of our future as well as an awesome Mom! Bless you!

  21. Jules says:

    Can’t agree more. My five year old was amazed that people who had different color skin were treated differently. And tomorrow he’s going to watch as the first black president takes the oath of office. Damn.

  22. Lori says:

    My family watched the speech this morning too. My kids are 11 and 14 and I am an old mom who grew up in the sixties. They can hardly believe the things I remember about growing up in a Whites Only world. I remember our favorite restaurant putting up “Members Only” signs, separate water fountains all over town, separate restrooms, separate libraries - things I can hardly believe myself, and I lived in that world. I cannot deny that this attitude still exists with some people but I am so excited and hopeful that with Obama’s presidency, we as a nation will take giant leaps forward. I too am so thankful that this is our kids’ norm!

    I enjoy your blog so much - thank you!

  23. Allbluezoo says:

    I am trying to figure out how to make this day important for my 6 and 3 year old. Thanks for putting me on the right path!

  24. jody says:

    We watched this this morning as well. There was a special on the History channel. It made me cry to watch teh march on Washington…how peaceful and wonderful it was.

    My kids reacted in much the same way about the hate. They just can’t understand. I too am very grateful that they live in a world that does not make a black man or woman sit on the back of a bus or drink from a different fountain. It’s insane to think that actually happened.

    If you really want to hear something wild….Bill’s grandfather is the lawyer that defended Jackie Robinson during his court martial hearing. I have him telling the story on video and it is so incredible to hear in person. I can e-mail your boys some links if you want.

    Chris says: Yes, email the links! Also, we watched the special this morning on the History channel, too. It was really good. Even my 5 yr old watched it. And she was soooo sad when he was assasinated. She had no idea it was coming.

  25. Maureen says:

    Amen Sister!! We are rejoicing here!


  26. Keri says:

    I’m thankful, too.

  27. EG says:

    I was watching the concert yesterday, and although I still don’t understand why Garth Brooks got a whole medley to himself, one of the lines is, “When the last thing you notice is the color of skin…” And YES, that’s where we want to be, and YES, having a biracial president is a step in that direction, but I really wish we’d stop saying “first black president” and just call him our president. We still see skin first.

    Do you ever watch the Today Show? Hoda Kotb told a story once that she was somewhere in the US and a lady asked her, “What ARE you?!” We feel a need to put people in boxes. (This comment is long, it could be my very own blog entry.)

    I’m glad President Obama will be normal for our kids. I’m so thankful that the events of this country pre- Dr. King are so foreign to our children. I think we have a long way to go. *May we raise kids who can take us there.*

  28. Monique says:

    Well in my heart of hearts..I often say to myself..Tell me people don’t think like that anymore.
    I am so glad I don’t think like that and my adult daughters with children don’t think like that either.
    You have lovely children and I do too:).My grandchildren may never even think that question.

  29. Adriana says:

    My kids are 8, 7 and 8mos. I too am happy that this is their normal.

  30. Karen says:

    “And I am thankful that this is their normal.”

    Me too, Oh, me too.

  31. Jennifer says:

    I can barely stand it this week is so exciting to me. What a great way to teach your children. And as always, I love your photography!

  32. Molly says:

    First time commenting. I’m loving your daily photos. In watching your project and a friend’s 365 project on flickr, it seems like it’s easier to pull out the daily gems - and the meaning in our every day - in these ‘just everyday moments’ shots than in long, ‘deep thoughts’ posts. I’ll continue to enjoy and take inspiration from your blog, and hopefully apply the lesson to my own. Keep up the good work!

  33. Keyona says:

    Amen to your post and your reply.

  34. Maine Mom says:

    You have inspired me to watch this video with my children. Thanks for linking to it. It has been just a day off around here.

  35. allmycke says:

    It’s already been said, but:


  36. Cary says:

    Thanks for the link. It made me cry to think how far we have come, and to remember that even with inauguration of President Obama that we cannot be satisfied until all Americans black, hispanic, gay, muslim, atheist, poor etc. are valued.

  37. cristan says:

    That’s such a good idea - I have an almost 4 year old and quite often I think “Oh he’s too young for xyz”, and then I realize that he’s really not!

  38. Bronnie says:

    It will be awesome to watch Obama :)

    I’m sure he will do amazing things for the US.

  39. Debbie98 says:

    I am proud of our country for how far we have come. Any dream is possible for our children. Even your daughter can one day dream of being President and by the time she is the age to become President it could happen!

  40. dynamitt says:

    I loved the last line “thankful that this is their normal”
    I’m 36 weeks pregnant with a girl who will be mixed race. I too am thankful that she will grow up in a world were skin color matter less then it us to.

  41. Keri says:

    I’m grateful for families who celebrate the day and don’t just take the day off. :) What an exciting time to be alive.

  42. Sharon says:

    It’s wonderful. Our kids are growing up in an amazing time.

  43. kate says:

    My camera and I will be going to the inauguration tomorrow. I was going to try and go with someone but no one can go. So my camera and I will be loading the metro first thing in the morning and heading to DC. I am so excited and think it is something I need to do.

    And what the heck was up with anonymous?

  44. Rachel says:

    Hi everyone-
    I did not vote for our president-elect because I agree with him on nothing. Still, my husband and I will watch the Inaguration with our 5 children because to do otherwise is just…ignorant. We are privileged to live in the greatest country in the world. The fact that my vote mattered makes me giddy. I will pray for our President every night, just like we have for the last 8 years. Our prayer always ends like this: “God bless our Pope, President, soldiers, the unborn babies and their mothers.” God bless you, President Obama. I hope you make us proud.

  45. Heidi says:

    First let me say that I can’t even believe that someone would comment and challenge what your doing with your children. I never will understand that part of the blog world!!

    My 9 year old son’s best friend for the past three years is a black boy. Last night his best bud slept at our house, like he does just about every other weekend. Last night we started talking about why we all had off today. When I told my son and his friend that there was a time when the 2 of them would not of been able to be friends. They just could not get it. And I’m glad they could not wrap their brains around that thought. I’m thankful everyday my kids don’t look at skin as a reason to not hang out with someone. And I NEVER want that to change!!

  46. Cate says:

    I didn’t vote for Obama because I didn’t agree with him politically (as a small business owner, the thought of even higher quarterlies makes me ill), but I’m excited to watch him become take the oath tomorrow. Ironic? By the way, I didn’t really want to vote for McCain either.

    I grew up in the south in the 1970s where racism was (and unfortunately is) alive and well. I fled for the Pacific Northwest not long after graduating for college. I love the excitement of my friends who happen to be black. This is HUGE, and I don’t think white America gets just how big this really is. I, like you, love that my kids will never think this is unusual. Love it. It’s about time.

  47. maggie madison says:

    This was great to see. The debate you stirred up was interesting and shows we still have a ways to go before we are all on the same page in term of how we feel about race relations. I hope a similar post next year goes over like a yawn! Heh. That’ll show progress!

  48. jodi says:

    My great grandmother was black but told her children that they were part Indian. By that time she and her husband (white) had moved up north and never saw any relatives. Her children believed her. Her grandchildren believed her. I now live near where she lived as a child and my husband and I went to that county and did research. It wasn’t a shock as I had suspected for awhile.

    I am so glad that Mr. Obama is going to be the President tomorrow. It doesn’t have anything to do with color. I just think he is very bright and so well spoken.

  49. Rachel says:

    Well said, Jodi. Great conversation, ladies!

  50. Victoria says:

    Amen, sister. AMEN!

  51. Carolynn from Western Australia says:

    Hi Chris,

    As I’ve said on many occasions, you are a wonderful mother and teacher. It makes me feel good that children today see no difference when it comes to skin colour.

    I remember as a youngster we used to have competitions during our Summer Holidays from school who would come back with the darkest tan. My sister and I would go sooooo dark, it was amazing. Even today despite using factor 30 sunscreen my skin takes a reasonable colour. Even as a youngster I could never understand how those very same people trying to get dark tans throughout summer didn’t tolerate coloured people but tried their hardest to look like them.

    I love the History Chanel, I love reading about History too, I find it fascinating. In school I could never remember dates and the likes but now as an adult my mind is full of information that I wish I could have retained when at school.

    Continue to teach your children as you do, continue to talk to your children as you do. Chris, if there were more mothers out there who taught their children the same values as you do there would be an amazing future in store for future generations. I can only hope and pray there are enough children out there being taught these values to make a difference.

    Take Care and Keep up the Good Work.
    Lots of Love Carolynn XXXXXXX :-)

  52. Lindsay says:

    Obama ‘12 baby! :)

    Great post, and cheers to turning the page in America, naysayers and all.

  53. Haley says:

    I was just like your kids when I was younger. Had no idea why we couldn’t treat everyone the same and my entire childhood was spent in the deep South.

    I have to disagree with those that say racism is still rampant in the deep South. Racism is not geographical, but rather generational (sp?). Those raised around the time of the Great Depression saw a world that was much different than the one we live in today…one we will never understand.

    My hope is that my future children, where ever I choose to raise them, will not even know what racism is. Instead they will be able to celebrate the achievements of Americans because of the individual person, not the color of their skin.

  54. Aubri says:

    Thank you.

  55. Cate says:

    Haley, I agree with you that racism in the south is very much generational, and I certainly didn’t mean to slander everyone in the south. I was raised by parents who loved people for the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

    Actually, I think many people in the south, especially the younger generations, are the most color blind. Unfortunately, when you get into the rural areas, it does show it’s ugly head. I hate it. A small part of me is delighted to see Obama become president just because I know it will piss off the racist relatives in my extended family.

  56. Jeanette says:

    I am white, or German American if you want to be PC about it. Let me tell you racism is rampant among African Americans as well, especially here in the South. I sympathize with those who struggled for equal rights and who endured hatred and shame. But I can tell you, I went to a high school where I was a minority (in the 1980’s) and was called names like White Heifer and Cracker, etc. Is that not judging others by their skin as well?

  57. momzen says:

    Just now finished watching the inaguaration. Wahoo!

  58. Katie says:

    My youngest daughter (6) is also coming home telling me all about Rosa Parks and how if someone told her she couldn’t sit in an empty seat, she just doesn’t KNOW what she would do. (meaning she would throw a temper tantrum and possibly tell them that she is a princess, so there)

    My older one is learning more in depth about the civil rights movement and she is really coming home shocked about things that she is learning.

    I grew up in New Orleans, so for me, it was normal to be surrounded by people of all ethnic origins. When they were born, I was active duty Army, so they have lived in 2 other countries (Korea and Germany) and were surrounded by a diverse group of people until I got out of the military in November of 2006, so for them, it is even more ridiculous that this stuff ever happened.

    I agree it is generational, but geographics do play a part. Racism does not only exsist in the South, however. I always get a bit defensive about that point, being raised in the South and all.

    There will always be people who feel so insecure about themselves that they will find any reason to put others down in an effort to make themselves feel better. This is true for ALL groups of people. Thank goodness the majority of people are sincerely moving away from judging people on anything other than the “Content of their character”.

  59. annmarie says:

    Thrilled and relieved and so happy.

  60. Gwen says:

    Although Obama was not the candidate I selected, I am very thankful for what his election represents in terms of progress for our nation. I hope that someday children will watch Martin Luther King’s speech and live in a world where his dream has come true. It IS a big deal that we have an African-American president, but that shouldn’t define his presidency.

  61. Dee from Tennessee says:

    Great post. MLK’s speech….what do you say? And to hear him , actually hear him, and not just read the words….what an impact! I can remember (starting to sound reallllllllllllly old here) when I was first started email etc. years ago…. anyway, a friend found his speech online, and I was hooked forever and ever on the net.

  62. threeundertwo says:

    A thrilling day, and such an important lesson for our kids. You were so smart to replay MLK’s speech.