Our daughter, like many other four and a half year olds, has lots of questions. For example, why didn’t she have school yesterday, even though it was a Monday – and doesn’t she go to school on the day after church? We explained that it was because we were remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he had done for us. Her eyes lit up and she smiled, asking, “He was a king?”

We began to explain to her who Dr. King was and why he was so important, especially for us as Asian Americans. I don’t want to talk down to my daughter, as if she cannot understand anything simply because she is a child, or try to gloss over the problems our world faces. But, at the same time, systemic racism is a weighty and difficult discussion for anyone to have, at any age.

While we were eating Pho on Sunday night, CNN was showing a retrospective of Dr. King’s life and legacy. We didn’t realize this, though, until our daughter asked us what those people were doing with the hoses and the “puppies.” We tried our best to explain how people who were African American were mistreated and abused in our country, and can you believe that someone would try to hurt others with firehoses and attack dogs? Our daughter was horrified — she explained indignantly that hoses are supposed to be used to help people by putting out fires and that we shouldn’t use puppies to hurt others.

We told her how Dr. King believed that God created and loves everyone, and that we should treat everyone the way that God wants us to, with dignity and respect. We explained that even though Dr. King shared this message peacefully, without fighting or hurting people, he was still put in jail. At this point, it was almost too much for our daughter to bear. Extremely frustrated, she said, “No — those people should have been put in jail because they were hurting people and being mean!”

My wife explained that, today, our daughter can go to school and be friends with everyone because of what Dr. King had done.  While we hope to sit down with her one day and share, in the words of Dr. King, “…the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” we were glad to have this small chance to remember Dr. King’s legacy together as a family.

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