As the girls get older, they begin to take part in more complex social circles. With those changes come a very interesting take on how they see the world and what they are exposed to. Last week, we were having a dinner conversation when Iris told us about how she learned about Martin Luther King in school. She began citing some of his notable accomplishments and even talked about the “I Have A Dream” speech. It was the first time we ever talked about race and it was an interesting view. I quoted the line from King’s speech where he had a dream that people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” and we began to discuss what that meant. It seemed so obvious to her. She found the idea of segregation so absurd that I’m not quite sure she believed it actually existed. But I told her that it happened in many places, including with her grandfather in India (until a man named Gandhi came along). I also reminded her that Cherise and I wouldn’t have even been allowed to marry until just before I was born. Her mouth dropped open and she waited a second to see if I was going to say “just kidding”. But as the blog posts have often shown about parenthood, it’s always that follow-up experience that hammers things home.
After dinner, I went upstairs and got ready for our latest family activity. Robyn has become incredibly musical (I will someday write another post about how she loves to sing anywhere, including while sitting on the toilet–our own potty crooner). As part of this, I like exposing her to new music. So Robyn has been getting a healthy dose of my secret music love: The Spinners. I love that late 70s R&B music, from “Rubberband Man” (Robyn’s favorite) to “Working My Way Back To You”. It was some of the music I listened to at her age and there’s something timeless about it in my eyes. Robyn sits on my lap and we dance around, imitating The Spinners moves. Robyn insists I need to get one of those powder-blue suits (her fashion sense hasn’t quite gotten as good as her musical talent). That night, Iris was watching with us when she asked “why do they all have dark skin?” What?!? Oh no, she didn’t get the lesson! “What’s wrong with that?”, I asked. She responded, “There should be some light-skinned people there” Eventually, I realized what the problem was. She thought this was the equivalent of the “Coloreds Only” signs she learned about in school. While explaining why these five guys got together would take a long time and does have some roots in race, I still insisted that they were together by choice and these were the best five guys for the job. To make my point, I asked her if she liked the music and if any of the singers didn’t deserve to be in the group and she admitted they were all good. But she still thought it would’ve been nice if they had someone with lighter skin. I asked her if it would be a good idea to have a woman as well and she agreed. That was my queue to find a clip of the Spinners doing a song called “Then Came You” with an 80s singer named Taylor Dayne, who was a white woman. I looked at Iris to ask Iris whether she thought this was better, but I didn’t need to say anything. She had a smile on her face, as if to say “that’s better”. There is something about the mixing races that really appeals her. Just like her mom & dad. Just like the dreams of Martin Luther King.