What My White 7-Year-Old Said About Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Friday, I had a talk with my 7-year-old son, Jonah, about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was unplanned, and one of those “on the spot” parenting moments, where I had to decide whether to gloss over the facts about WHY he has today off school, or use it to start an important conversation.

Jonah was speech-delayed when he was younger, and though he’s all caught up now, there are still some social concepts he’s behind on and topics that are NEW to him. Like, for instance, racism, social justice, and murder. So, navigating these issues with him can be tricky. He will also think out loud about them, A LOT…for instance he constantly talks about how my Grandma, who he barely remembers “died because she was 95 and is in heaven.” He thinks this means EVERYONE will die when they are 95. So when we visit my 92-year-old grandmother who is still living, I have to strictly instruct him before we see her NOT to tell her that she only has three years to live. ANYWAY.

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Here’s how our conversation went down.

Me: You don’t have school on Monday, Buddy!

Jonah: Why don’t I have school?

Me: Because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s a holiday.

Jonah: What’s Martin Luther King Day?

Me: It’s a day we celebrate a great man. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. He had dark skin and he preached and fought for all people with dark skin to be treated the same as people with light skin.

Jonah: How old is he? (this is Jonah’s way of trying to ascertain how close to the death-age of 95 he is)

Me: Well, he died, honey.

Jonah: How did he die?

Me: (Pause. Are we going here?? Ok we are.) Well, a bad man shot him.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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