Yesterday we took my mom out to dinner. While we were eating, my brother overheard a little boy nearby say "But I thought only Black people could come here to eat." The mom apparently tried to shush her son right away. My brother was the only one of us who heard this comment. He didn't want to embarass the family so he told us about it later.
I relayed to my brother that it could have been an innocent comment made by this little 3 year old. After all, we were eating in the Black Angus. I can see how that might sway the little tyke's thinking.
The more I thought about it though, the real issue was not what he said but how he thought. At 3 years old and even now, my 7 year old does not distinguish between people on the basis of their skin color or race. She uses descriptors such as "the girl whose mom doesn't make her wear her uniform" or "the boy who always gets good grades" etc. How is it that at 3 years old this little child has already learned that people are divided into different groups?
It makes me sad, especially today on this Martin Luther King holiday, that while we have progressed in the area of tolerance and respect for others who are different from us, we still have a long way to go.