Kids say the darnedest things

One morning, when I opened the Museum up, two White families came in to visit. One was from Dusselorf, Germany (they spoke excellent English). The other family was that of the political cartoonist of the Kansas City Star. Both had found out about the Museum through an Ebony magazine article which listed places to visit in Missouri.

During the course of my presentation, I had the occasion to speak about the Buffalo Soldiers and my uncle Harrison White, who, as a Buffalo Soldie,r fought with Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill. In the midst of this talk, a little tow-headed German girl asked the best question of the day. “Why did they call them Buffalo Soldiers?” I answered, “Because they were fierce like buffalo and their hair looked like buffalo fur.” She looked at me, very puzzled, as if she didn’t get it. To further explain, I said, “Look at your hair – do you see how it is? Now look at mine! Do you see the difference?” “Can I feel your hair?” she asked as a little child might in their innocence, while her mother squirmed a little with embarrassment. “Of course!” I said. After she’d finished rubbing my head, I added, “Now can you tell the difference?” She was still puzzled about what Buffalo Soldiers could be.

So I broke it down further. “What’s the difference between your hair and my hair?” She pondered the question for a bit and said, “Oh! I know!” pointing to my receding hairline,”You don’t have any up there!” I realized that I was trying to show her the difference in our respective races, and she was seeing the sameness. The only difference to her was that I was going bald.

The political cartoonist from Kansas City had come to the Museum in part to present me with a wonderful pen and charcoal caricature he’d done of me. All the while I spoke with the German family, the cartoonist’s little boy (around 4 years old) was clinging to me, at times, even grabbing my cassock. He seemed to hang on every word.

After a while, their visits completed, the families left. The next day, I remembered that I hadn’t thanked the cartoonist properly for the picture, so we spoke on the phone. I asked how they were, and how his boy was doing. “Oh, Fr. Moses,” he said. “You made an impression on him!” He continued, “He’s been running around the house with one of my black t-shirts on. When I asked him why, he told me, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a Black priest, just like Fr. Moses!'”

Both of these interactions confirmed my belief that we must be very careful with children and make sure that the model that we set for them, which, trust me, they will always remember, is good and truthful.