Children and Moral Reasoning

You can learn a lot about what is right or wrong by attempting to explain things to your children.

My children have begun to learn about the civil rights struggle of African-Americans.  It is bittersweet because on the one hand the history presents a good way to learn about justice.  On the other, it awakens racial awareness in them that was not really there before.  I regret that children have to learn about such things.  Sometimes, I fantasize that we could all wake up with no knowledge of the past of racial slavery or segregation.  Of course, it is probably better to remember mistakes so as not to repeat them.

In any case, as Andrew and Grace learn about these matters, they ask questions of their mother and me.  They would like an explanation for the wrongs that were committed.  They have also wanted to understand what happened with the American Indians and the Trail of Tears.  

(I will admit that I was anxious to learn from my son whether he knew anything more about Andrew Jackson than that he authored the evil of the Trail of Tears.  In my effort the flesh things out, I even looked up the lyrics to The Battle of New Orleans on my iPhone and then sang them to the family at the dinner table.)

When you start to try to answer those questions, it is very simple, indeed, to see who was right and who was wrong.  White Europeans imposed themselves on the natives of this land with a substantial amount of force and fraud.  The same general group engaged in a vicious chattel slavery and a massively inhumane slave trade.  The moral lines assert themselves quite easily (thus demonstrating the silliness of relativism).  The stronger people dehumanized the weaker ones and found a way to justify getting what they wanted.  

And what is really suggestive for our view of current controversies is that I felt the same sort of tension winding up as I tried to explain abortion to my son.