Image via Associated Press
|I would like to be the person that gets out of the house on her own and visits neighborhoods just to take in their historical relevance. But I’m not. This could be part of my love affair with my son, that when he has free time, I want to use it. It is no longer easier to stay home and take in the rays from the window, because I have an amazing mind by my side ready to see what’s in this world. So when Roan had this past week off from school, we found time to visit The Apollo Theater in Harlem.|
As I started to tell Roan about the theater, it’s history and why it is special, I entered some interesting territory. I realized that Roan has never articulated noticing any difference in races. He’s reached for different colored crayons when drawing different friends, but has never identified anyone in conversation according to their color. He’s brought home stories from school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he’s mentioned that President Obama is the first black president, but I didn’t know if Roan was aware of racism, bigotry, slavery, and prejudice. More importantly I didn’t know if I wanted to introduce those concepts to him if he had escaped them so far.
So I told him we were going to a famous theater in a famous neighborhood. I told him that it was an important theater because it gave some performers a chance to sing and dance and entertain, during a time when they wouldn’t have been welcome in other theaters. Obviously he asked “why”, and so I took the leap and asked if he knew that people don’t treat each other in a way that is right sometimes? I asked him if he knew about the old days, when a black person couldn’t drink from the same water fountain, couldn’t go in certain restaurants, and even before that was forced to work for white people?
|Roan started digging around in his five-year-old brain and found some context. “So”, he began “like in Teen Titans, Robin would make Cyborg do everything? Because Cyborg is black.” I went with it, and said that was exactly it. Roan explained that it wouldn’t make sense because Cyborg is Robin’s teammate has his own special powers and they are all friends. Roan moved on pretty quickly and said that|
“it isn’t the truth”. It was fascinating to see that it wasn’t terribly attention grabbing to him because it was nonsense. Obviously all the superheroes are different colors, from different planets, with different powers, and they all work together. There is no reason why one color would be better. And that is Roan’s reality.
|Just to emphasize to Roan that it is (or at least should be) different now for non-superheroes, I started listing all the things that everyone can do, stating, “Black people now can be anything they want to be. Doctors, Lawyers, President of America, Chefs…” then I was interrupted with Roan’s idea: “And they can be computer nerds, let’s go” I have no idea where that came from, but I felt that the conversation could end on that note. We went to Harlem and spent the day there. He didn’t mention anything about race and I’m guessing that the concept was lost on him, but I’m still thinking about it. I wonder when he needs to become aware of racism? I’d prefer for him to preemptively understand that it has no place in our life, but I also don’t want to plant the concept there while it is absent. I don’t know what the right answer is. Instead, we just got on the stage at the Apollo Theater, took in some history and returned home with our world a little larger than it had been before.|