One of the members of our church choir is a dedicated peace activist who has been arrested more than once for her protest work; from time to time she reports on the status of charges against her. When my daughter first understood that this woman had been put in jail because of her beliefs, she was intrigued. This led to a discussion about democracy and civil disobedience, and to the stories of the Civil Rights Movement. The stories about Rosa Parks and Dr. King have become part of American mythology, and I was proud to tell her some of those stories.
I quickly found myself in rather deep water, however, since explaining the background of the struggle required discussing racism and its destructive manifestation in our history of African slavery. Imagine the squirming I suffered inside as I (a white woman) explained to my newly-adopted Ethiopian daughter how white people went to Africa to steal black people and bring them here against their will, their heritage stripped from them. The growing look of baffled alarm on my daughter’s face finally resolved itself into a gut punch of a question. “Am I your slave?”