"This week, class, we'll be talking about famous African Americans who helped to fight for black rights." Mrs. Stanley began to write the names of several familiar heroes across the dry erase board in the front of the classroom. Her first grade class listened contently to her lesson. "People such as Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks helped to fight for the rights of African Americans. The things they did have affected us all here today." The young woman raised her eyes from the board and scanned over her pupils. Her New York class was composed of many races. "I'm sure many of your parents have told you all about the things these amazing people have done for us. We have a very exciting diversity in our class. We have many students who are of the African American descent." Her eyes ran across the room again and fell upon a girl in the front row. "Amanda, you're African American. Have your parents ever told you the story of Harriet Tubman?"
"No Mrs. Stanley, I've never heard of that nice lady." She answered in an innocent voice. She had faced the front of the room, but her eyes seemed to look at the ceiling. The little girl had been premature and lost all her sight at birth.
A puzzled look had come over Amanda's face. "Mrs. Stanley, how do you know that my Mommy and Daddy are from Africa?"
"Well, sweetie, you're black. You have dark skin. People who are from Africa or have ancestors from Africa have darker skin then people from other countries." The teacher turned back to the board and began to describe the history of each name on the white board. Amanda's confusion however, did not leave.
Derek went to pick his daughter up from school that day. Her teacher always guided her outside to meet her father after school. Derek stepped out of his car and looked across the parking lot to his daughter standing in front of the school gate. Her small white cane was extended in front of her. He smiled. Sarah had braided her long black hair and put in Amanda's favorite barrettes. He walked across the parking lot and approached his daughter. "There's my beautiful princess." Derek had loved her since the minute he laid eyes on her. The first time the doctor had told Sarah and him that their daughter was blind, he had told Sarah that it wasn't going to stop her from doing anything she wanted to.
"Hey Daddy!" The young girl flung her arms out expecting the daily hug. Derek flung his arms around his beautiful child. She grabbed onto his arm and he led Amanda to their car. Once they were both situated in the car Amanda looked in the direction of her father. "Daddy?"
"Today in school Mrs. Stanly told us about famous African-American people. She said that I was African-American because we have black skin. Daddy, what does that mean?"
A look of concern came over Derek's face. Amanda didn't know what color she was. She didn't know that different people had different colors of skin. She didn't know that her dad was black but her mom was white. "Baby, can Mommy and Daddy talk about this with you together tonight at dinner?"
When they had arrived at home, Derek had gone into his bedroom with Sarah after helping Amanda into her own. "Sweetie, she asked me about the color of her skin."
Sarah's face went pale. She had always dreaded this day. Although Derek had always insisted that he didn't care what people said about them being together, she had always felt slightly to blame because she was white and had married someone who was black. "Let's just explain it to her the best we can."
That evening at dinner Derek cleared his throat, "Amanda, today after school you asked me about what you learned in school,"
"Yeah, Mrs. Stanley said I was African. She said she knew that because me and you and mama had black skin."
Derek peered at his wife. "Well, yes, you have black skin and I have black skin, but Mommy has white skin."
"But Mrs. Stanly says that people with white skin don't like people with black skin."
"That's true. In the past, some white people didn't like black people. They were very mean to them. But people do not believe the same thing anymore."
"But Daddy, I still don't get it. When I touch your hand it feels just like Mommy's hand. How are they different?"
A broad smile came over both their faces. "Absolutely nothing." Sarah answered her daughter. "Even though I'm white and your daddy's black, it doesn't make us any different. We're all the same. Every human being is exactly the same. Never let anyone tell you any differently."