I am attempting to raise race-conscious white children. So sometimes we have conversations I wish we didn’t have to have. Like this one, which happened as we read Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges together earlier this week.
“Look at this picture. This is a burning cross. It became a symbol of hate used by men like those three standing underneath it, but that’s not what it was originally for. Do you know where it originally came from? It came from Scotland. In the time of the clans a burning cross was set up on the evening before a battle to rally the troops to fight; for kin, for land, for freedom…it was meant to be a symbol to gather around.”
“Mama, what are they trying to get people to gather around?”
“Well, those men are white men…”
“But mama, they don’t look white…”
“I know. That’s because in the picture they are wearing all white clothing, and their skin, while it is called white, is really kind of a peachy color. Like ours. And they are trying to gather people around the idea of whiteness, and wanting to hurt people who aren’t white. They are trying to get people who think that to all stick together and that’s why they called themselves a klan. Their goal is to join all the white people together under their idea.”
“Are we white people then?”
“But…what about black people? Like M and N? Are they black people?”
“Yes. Like them.”
“But they are our friends!”
“Right. So if you were going to gather people to be in your clan, who would it be? Would you only want people who look like you?”
“No! Absolutely not!”
“Well, that’s a start. I want you to think about what your criteria is for what makes you think of someone as ‘in your clan.’ Who do you want to be connected to? What is your idea? We’re going to continue this conversation. Probably for a really, really long time.”
For a little more information on the history of the KKK and cross-burning as their attempt to bring legitimacy to their group, you can check out this short and informative article.