On Monday, I shared some movie ideas for starting a conversation about the civil rights movement with kids. Our family decided to watch The Watsons go to Birmingham together in celebration of MLK Day. It’s a great movie about a loving family with the backdrop of real events in the civil rights movement, but there were some troubling scenes, including one of African Americans being attacked by police with dogs and fire hoses, and another of the church being bombed. It was a great movie for my older kids, but it was a bit mature for my six-year-old. She was really troubled by the movie and I had to lay in bed with her until she fell asleep. It was a reminder to me that no matter how eager we are to talk about race with our kids, it’s not something we can rush. It’s an ongoing conversation that has to be tailored to their developmental level.

While she might have been a bit young for the content in this movie, it did lead to a great discussion, and I’m glad she felt safe enough to ask me tough questions. Here’s a part of that conversation.

Karis: Why did people blow up the church?

Me: Because back then, there were a lot of white people who didn’t like people with brown skin. They didn’t want to share their town with them.

Karis: Do you like people with brown skin?

Me: What do you think?

Karis: Well, you adopted two people with brown skin.

Me: Yes. Anything else?

Karis: You have friends who have brown skin. And you go on a lot of trips with people with brown skin.

Me: Yes. I have lots of black friends I love very much. And sometimes we go on trips. Any other things that could indicate I like people with brown skin?

Karis: We go to a church with people with brown skin sometimes.

Me: Yes. The way people thought in the movie we watched . . . that was a long time ago. Most people have really changed their views. Now, if someone was to hurt brown people like that, they would probably get in trouble.

Karis: Yeah. Everyone would yell at them. If someone was mean to people with brown skin at my school everyone would say, “Hey! Stop being mean!”

Me: I hope so. And that behavior is called racism. And when someone acts like that, remember that it is a tattling situation.

Karis: Yes. I would tell on them and tell them to stop.

Me: Why did you ask me if I like black people? Were you concerned?

Karis: Well. I thought you did. But I wanted to make sure. And, no offense, but if you didn’t like brown people, I was going to be really mad at you.

Me: That’s fair! I would feel mad about that, too.