What I told my 6 year old about Ferguson

Ever Sophia, social awareness

It feels cheap to call it Ferguson. This could just as easily been titled what I told my 6 year old about Michael Brown. About racism in our country. About police murders. About hatred. You have to settle on #something.

Last night, as I did dishes the grand jury ruling came rolling in. Alone, I took in the news. Tried to figure out how I was going to synthesize that information to my two sleeping life mates. When J woke up, he reached for his laptop to check.
“You’re not going to be surprised”.
That’s all. He can read.

Now what to say to my littlest love. To her B is for ball and W for window. Black and white are colors. “People are shades of brown, actually.”

I’ve taken in a lot of information in the past 24 hours. I could read the Ferguson Docs for days as so many journalists are doing as we speak. I’ve read both sides of the story. I’ve listened to commentary and live news feeds. I’ve seen the tip of the iceberg and I’ve seen enough.

I debated about explaining any of this to Ever at all. Granted she is very much in tune to adult happenings. But mostly on the level of do I get cookies out of this? If so when? If not then can we make some sort of cookie arrangement. In short the world revolves around her. That’s life at 6.

I was torn. Part of me wants to let my baby hold on to the innocence of youth for as long as she can. But a bigger part of me knows that it is my duty as her parent to expose her to the array of human rights issues. To teach her tolerance. To be an example of peace and love. To teach her to be informed, to be a free thinker, to question everything.

So I waited until we were in bed. I got my computer, opened youtube queued up “I Have A Dream” and put it as succinctly and gently as I could.

“Today was a very important day Ever. Something very sad happened.”
“What happened Mama?”
“A boy was murdered and a lot of people are very upset about it.”
“What does murder mean?” — Right.
“It means someone was killed.” — Wow this got really dark. The darkness is unavoidable.
“A police man murdered the boy.” She said something to the effect of police men being good and nice.
“Most police men are good and nice, they want to help us. This was one police man that did something bad.” — How do you navigate this?
I can’t instill a distrust of police all together in her at the age of 6. Maybe if she were any thing other than a little white girl I would have to. Hum.

“Some people don’t like other people because of their skin color. It’s a very bad thing that happens and we’re trying to make that stop.”

At some point there was an interjection about,
“Is Julius going to be with one of the police that don’t like him?”.
That was a quick mathematics exercise. I profusely reassured her, no.

All of these horrendous acts are hitting way to close to home as it is. I can’t let my mind go there especially given the statistics in my own backyard. As of October 31st the Albuquerque police department subjected to monitoring and was partially disband after a Federal investigation into the outrageous number of police brutality cases. Right outside of my front door you are liable to be murder by a police officer if you’re homeless, mentally ill, a person of any color or even another police officer. So, no. I can’t let myself entertain that. It’s entirely too real. (Check out this post about the unsung murders by the ABQ PD).

I spared her the gritty details. I have no intentions of terrifying her, because that’s what it is. Instead I pushed play, Dr.King said it best.

And then:

Because every time it gives me chills.

We talked about how 1963 was when grandma was just a tiny baby. “Where is she, I don’t see her”. –Okay, well, I’m trying.
She asked me who every single person in the audience is,
“I’m not sure, they are people that gathered to support everyone loving each other”.

“I think that’s an ice-cream man”. –She’s brilliant but she’s just 6.
We talked about the idea of civil rights. We talked about how we are still working on it.

Then we watched this:

Because I wanted to remember a time when my president was full of passion. I wanted to remember a time not so long ago when I thought that the page just may turn. I wanted to remember when we all had HOPE.

Ev hasn’t really said anything about it since. I’m not dragging it out (with her, for you well it feels forced to talk about anything else). But I sure in the hell won’t tip toe around it.

In the most bizarre twist of the night, she made this impromtu arrangement on our bedside table. It was a surprise for J and I.


I couldn’t have made that up if I tried.

Flowers by her own arranging, an alarm clock, a police badge, one fallen yellow flower, a picture of her with a black ribbon tied around it and a Free State glass. That’s the most pertinent set of found objects that any one of us could have complied last night.


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