Our neighborhood and school district aren't what you would call culturally diverse. They are about as white as you can get. I love our neighborhood and school district, but the lack of that diversity has always bummed me out a bit. I grew up in a neighborhood and school district in which I was the minority, and I've always wondered if I am doing my boys a disservice by not exposing them to a bigger range of ethnic groups, cultures and backgrounds.
This worry came to a head this morning when our new puppy Indy grabbed a book off of the coffee table to give it a good chew. I knew what book was sitting there - one written by Barack Obama with his picture on the cover.
Jack went to get the book from Indy and said, "Oh no! He's chewing a book about Martin Luther King!"
Oh no. Does my son really think that all adult male African Americans are Martin Luther King? As my mind spun into a panic of poor parenting and raising children that have no idea about the range of cultures that exist in this country, Jack said, "Oh, wait. It's Barack Obama."
Let me remind you that Jack is seven years old. I was extremely relieved that he corrected himself, but also impressed he could identify Barack by his picture. "How do you know about Barack Obama?" I asked him. "We are learning about him at school," he replied.
I was happy to hear that the school is discussing more African American role models than just Martin Luther King but had to wonder - Would Jack know any others if Barack wasn't about to be nominated as the Democratic candidate for President? I don't know that he would. But I also don't know if he could name many white role models, other than the Jonas Brothers.
So, my lessons learned are that Jack does not think all adult male African Americans are Martin Luther King; I need to expose my sons to more diversity; I need to teach them about heroes and role models in our country's history and that making a difference or leading a nation or spearheading change is dependent on a person's characteristics and not what they look like.