I told my daughter it was time to go to church and to get moving. She started whining about leaving her piggy bank money out and that the bad black guys would come get it.
"What?" I asked. "What did you say?"
"The bad black guy robber will come take my money," she repeated.
"Black guy? Why would he be black?" I asked her.
"But Mommy, all the bad guys are black," she explained in that exasperated tone of voice that conveys, "don't you know anything?"
I took a deep breath as my mind raced to think where on earth she had gotten such an idea. The news? Her grandparents?
I tried to explain that bank robbers, and all robbers, came in all shapes, colors, sizes and sexes. She kept shaking her head, "No." She kept explaining, "They are all black, Mommy. All of them."
Husband came in and we both tried to explain to her that all black guys were not robbers and all robbers were not black guys. We weren't getting anywhere. I kept asking where she heard such a thing. She replied, "the news....and Martha speaks."
"Martha speaks?" I asked. Martha Speaks is a cartoon. One of the few I let her watch because I actually think it teaches some good things. Had I been wrong?
"Yes mommy. The robber was all black. Head to toe. Like that mask thing Daddy wears when hunting."
"Huh? Oh wait? You mean a ski mask? Like a hat that covers his face?" I asked.
"Yes Mommy," she sighed, rapidly losing patience. "The one all the bad guy robbers wear. With their black shoes, black pants and black shirts. Oh and black gloves. Then the black mask. All the bad guys are black guys. So no one can see them."
"Ahhhh," I said, the light finally dawning, "so you mean the bad guys WEAR all black."
"Yes Mommy,that is what I said," Daughter explained. "Do you get it now?"
Yes I get it. My adult mind assumed the worst. I forgot that kids are supposed to be innocent, and that mine are. I forgot that they aren't growing up in a house where people are judged by skin color. For a minute there, I wondered where I had gone wrong in teaching her. Then I learned it was me who had gone wrong in assuming the worst. I'm glad I was wrong. I get it now.