My response was simple: I was baffled as to why my four year old knowing who Freddy Gray was was baffling.
My son is a beautiful four year old boy. He is sweet and kind. He is more childlike than the other children who are starting Kindergarten this year (which he should be but isn't). My husband and I have been hellbent on extending his childhood -- insistent on preserving his youth -- until it's forced from our grasp by the inevitability of elementary school. He is the child running barefoot in the park, the one happily laughing the afternoons away at his gym class. He is a child in every sense of the world, boyhood dripping from his smile and his big dreams that have not yet been crushed by the world around him.
But he knows who Freddy Gray was because he lives in this world and so why shouldn't he know what is going on around him?
I argue with people often about the dangers of being color blind versus being color aware. It frightens me when people say smugly that they don't see color. If we, as a society, keep hiding our head in the sand, we can never heal the cracks that so desperately need to be welded together. We have taught Ethan the importance of being color aware not just because he has a sister who is biracial but because, as parents, it is our job to equip him with the necessary tools needed to be a productive member of society.
At four, Ethan is a little bit more intellectual than I know what to do with. Sometimes I can't answer his questions. Sometimes he just wants to pretend to be a robot, speaking in bee-boo, bee-boo noises. Other times, he wants to come up with a detailed plan to solve world poverty. We've always believed in following the child and quenching their desire for knowledge. Perhaps the most important thing we want him to know as boyhood evolves into adulthood ith is the importance of being kind. Is there someone out there who thinks that Freddy Gray was treated with kindness? Is there someone out there who believes there to be justification behind his senseless death and the inevitability that no charges will be likely be filed (please, universe, prove me wrong).
I want Ethan to be the change that I wish to see in the world, just as I strive to be. We want him to be the one who stands up when someone is being wronged. We want him to see color, to see unfairness, to be the voice for someone who has been unjustly silenced.
Yes, my four year old knows who Freddy Gray was. He knows that most people are good but that some are bad, or make bad choices for reasons unknown (although Ethan speculates it's because their parents didn't hug them enough or maybe they didn't jump in enough puddles as children). He knows that the best way to fight hatred is with love. He knows that he can never turn the other cheek if anyone is harming someone else.
We choose to let our child know what is going around him in this world so that he knows the importance of standing up for kindness and for love. After all, love is the best way to stomp out hate. If we pretend Freddy Gray's murder never happened, if we pretend that there are no problems in modern day America -- how can we expect to fix them? We owe our children a better tomorrow than this.