John Henry checked out a book from the library called “Ron’s Big Mission.” Before he began to read the book aloud to me, I was not quite prepared to have a discussion on America’s past history of segregation. But, it was time. I am sure.
The book is based on the true story of Ron McNair who, as a child, was an avid reader and loved to read books about airplanes. Growing up in South Carolina in the 50’s and 60’s was not exactly easy for any black child. Especially a black boy who simply wanted to check out books from his local whites only public library.
Until one day, Ron decided he wasn’t leaving the library until he was a card holder. His mother was called, police officers showed up, and Ron stood his ground still. As a result, Ron changed a piece of history and became the first black person to check out books from that library.
Talk about a lion chaser.
John Henry, of course, asked a lot of questions. A lot of surprising questions.
“Am I a black person?” he asked.
“No, baby, you are a white person.”
At this point in the conversation, I realized he had never identified people belonging to different races. So, I asked him what he thought when he saw someone with dark skin.
“I just thought their skin was darker. That is all. I kind of have dark skin, so I am really kind of white and black.” He told me.
“Sure. You are white and black,” I assured him.
I was not about to disappoint him. I taught him about the days of segregation. I explained where we were as a nation during those times and where we are now. Honestly, it was a difficult, but necessary conversation.
We then read a little more on the life of Ron McNair. This 9-year old hero grew up to be an even greater American hero. This little boy who loved airplanes became a pilot. And, on January 28, 1986, he lost his life as an astronaut during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
I hope John Henry not only learned something about the significance of civil rights. I also hope he learned about what it means to stand up for something he believes in. And, what it really means to be a lion chaser.