Like a lot of elementary school kids, my daughter has been spending a lot of time lately studying our presidents.
In addition to memorizing all the presidents – there sure are a lot more than when I was in school! – she also was asked to choose one president and do a report. She chose Lincoln and she asked what he "did" as president.
We talked about the Civil War and how he was assassinated. We also talked about how he freed the slaves.
This led to a lot of questions: Who were the slaves? Why were they slaves? How were the slaves treated? All good questions, but not always easy ones.
The idea that people were treated like this simply because of the color of their skin clearly had an impact. She’s old enough to understand that being Chinese means looking a little different than most of her friends. And during this discussion, she seemed to understand that you could have easily written that people were taken from China against their will and brought to the United States as slaves.
She even reflected back to an essay she wrote around the time of Martin Luther King Day, where she said that everyone deserved to be treated equally. In that, she asked readers to imagine a world where everyone with brown eyes got everything for free and everyone who didn’t have brown eyes had to pay a lot of money for things.
"Imagine how you’d feel if you didn’t have brown eyes," she wrote.
So now, she realized that there was a time in our history where that was pretty much the situation.
We also recently caught a few snippets of the movie The Boy With The Striped Pajamas, about the son of a German officer who befriends a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. At first, my daughter didn’t understand why a barbed wire fence separated the boys and why one boy was dressed nicely and the other was in shabby "striped pajamas."
When we explained the situation, admittedly in rather simple terms, she didn’t say much, but you could tell the gears were turning inside.
Taken all together, that's quite a bit for a 10-year-old girl to take in and it's given her a lot to think about. For now, she’s decided that Lincoln was a good president and what he did was a good thing.
And when her teacher told the class that if they were going to bring in Valentine’s Day cards and treats, it was all or nothing. They either brought something in for everyone or brought in nothing.
"I’m glad she did that," Catie said. "Imagine how someone would feel if they were the one being left out."
If only more adults had a perspective that mature.
Wrap your equality around that!