I relished weekends at my dad’s house when I was a kid.
It meant working on craft projects, building things with my dad; it meant taking trips to the gas station for candy and putting pennies on the railroad tracks; it meant riding our bikes around his historic neighborhood in Athens, Alabama, and going downtown to get ice cream cones at the local pharmacy on the square.
On one weekend visit, however, we had to stay in the house — there was no riding bikes allowed, no trips downtown for ice cream. The reason: There was a Ku Klux Klan rally on the square, surrounding Limestone County’s pillared courthouse.
I don’t remember exactly how my father explained what was going on.
Although I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, my parents tiptoed around racial issues. I never heard the “n” word until I watched “A Time to Kill” in high school. But I starkly remember the fear and the shock that weekend at my dad’s, as a 10-year-old girl in Athens, glued to the news on the television, knowing that there were still people who perpetuated hate and racism.
I was terrified.
A quarter of a decade later, I wish I didn’t have to have the same kind of conversation with my own kids. When my oldest daughter was in preschool and I first started writing this column, I wrote about my struggle with teaching my daughter about race and the desire for my daughter not to see the color of a person’s skin.
But I’ve learned, over time, that that is a luxury of white privilege, and I would be doing a disservice to my children if I don’t teach them about race or racism. Because events in recent years, especially the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week, have proven that racism and hate are still very much an issue in this country.
We cannot let bigotry prevail.
Just as I must raise my children knowing between right and wrong, I must raise them knowing the difference between love and hate; to raise them as empathetic individuals who help people who struggle, who befriend people unlike them, to understand that not everyone lives the same kind of life and to stand up for what is right.
I will take my kids to the Civil War battlefields and the civil rights museums, much the way my own parents took me as a kid. They’ll know the history of this great nation, and know their ancestors fought on both sides of the Civil War, not because of the monuments or markers in some city square, but because we will teach them the truth — both the good and the bad.
But right now is a time in our nation’s history, where the country is split and our citizenry is once again tested. Now is the time where what we say and do will carve the legacy of our generation and possibly the generations to follow. It is likely a pivotal point for our country.
It’s times like these that I ask what future we want for our children, what kind of future we want for ourselves. I can only hope and pray that this nation can come out of this stronger, more united and more resolved, for there should be no for place racism and bigotry in America.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.