Ella says she’s brown and pink. So is Jack. Dad is white and gold, which is probably from the halo over his head that only she can see. I can kind of see it whenever he makes buttermilk biscuits and fried pork chops. “You’re brown, Mama,” she tells me, pressing her finger into my nose and laughing. None of these differences upset her. She only delights in knowing her colors. She knows so many things now and she’s only three. Matthew and I already have to be careful with what we say in front of her. But there’s a dark corner, a sad reality she thankfully knows nothing about. How will I explain it to her? There are those who would have her be ashamed of our differences, ashamed of our family’s makeup, ashamed of herself. I don’t remember the first time I learned about Dr. King but I do remember watching a movie in school about Ruby Bridges and I just wanted to plug my ears and put my head on my desk. I don’t think I knew ignorance existed until I knew her story. How could they hate her so much? A little girl in a dress, her hair in braids. A girl just like me and I was sad for both of us. They were yelling at her and I could imagine them yelling at me. What will Ella imagine, when she learns the truth? When she learns the worst? What do I tell her?
I’ll tell her about dreams.
Dr. King’s dream. Ruby’s dream. Rosa’s dream. Malcolm’s dream. Sojourner’s dream. Harriet’s dream. Frederick’s dream. My dream. Martin Luther King was a man in a suit and Ruby Bridges was a girl in a dress; they both faced screaming mobs and picket lines and white, hot anger. For the dream. That we could all sit together, learn together, let go of hate and embrace equality. Embrace each other. Ella and I are girls in dresses and braids and though we may never have the exact same skin, we can walk together in the same path of tolerance and dreams.
The world has time to change. The world has time to shine light into those dark corners, dig up the bad seeds, set a new course. Ella delights in colors and by the time she’s old enough to understand, old enough to know better, old enough to know the worst– my dream is that the rest of the world will share her delight.