Discussion Questions about Race and Justice for Families | An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

October 24, 2016

Discussion Questions about Race and Justice for Families | An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win

We recently had The Talk with L. 

And, inadvertently, with M, who caught a good bit of the conversation because she was in close proximity. And by "had The Talk," I mean "some semblance of information was relayed from me to the girls that was mostly biological and probably not complete but let's hope they don't get tested on it any time soon."

Since starting this blog, I've run the gamut of parenting seasons. And I'll be honest: none have been easy. Sure, some are easier than others. But they all bring their own challenges. When the girls were babies, it was the overwhelming physical challenge of trying to keep them alive and stop them from crying and sneaking in sleep sometimes. 

Now that the girls are older, I find the parenting challenges to be deeper. We're at the stage of imparting knowledge and guiding them so that they'll be mostly functioning adults that make mostly good decisions and generally contribute to society in positive ways. 


A lot of this season is having hard conversations. Some are uncomfortable (Lord help me when they finally connect that while women have eggs and men have sperm, they have to, at some point, unite to make a baby) while others are more momentous, because these conversations are building blocks that will have lasting effects on how the girls will look at culture and history and the world and the people in it, so don't screw this up okay?

With various events over the past few years playing out over media, it's important to me to have conversations about race and justice with the girls. Not because they'll accidentally see it, but because it's important and I want my girls to know what is right, to speak out for the good of all and to be agents of change. They are mostly unaware of the harsh realities for people of color in our country, and I know that comes from a place of privilege. I'm so aware of it. And my girls need to be aware of it, too, because they have classmates for whom those harsh realities are life and privilege is not their friend.

So we do talk about it, and we try our best to be very honest and real about the topic. But it often helps to have a springboard for those conversations, especially when kids are young. 

When I saw that American Girl had come out with a new movie about Melody, a 10-year-old African-American girl living in Detroit during the Civil Rights Movement, I was excited to jump on the opportunity to make this a learning moment.

We got to finally watch the movie on Amazon this weekend. And it was fantastic. Melody's story did not hold back, shedding light on what life was like in the 1960's for black and brown people in America. We stopped the movie several times to talk about what we were watching, answer questions and share our thoughts. At a few points, L was frustrated at the unfairness of Melody's situation. 

So we talked about it: the history of black people in America, slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King, and that while we've come a long way, there is still a long way to go. 

You know, just your normal run-of-the-mill Saturday night, right?

Above all, we left the movie with the challenge that we have a part to play in, as Melody says, making this country a better place for everybody. A challenge I take seriously, and will continue to challenge my daughters on.

I feel it is important for white families to be having these conversations with their kids, so that we are raising our children to be part of the solution. Our privilege often hinders us from having these conversations because we can choose to ignore the issues and not be affected. Yet, by doing so, we are affecting the continued issue of race and injustice in this country. Watching Melody's story is a great way to begin having those conversations.

To help facilitate conversation with your kids, I wrote up a few discussion questions that we found important and engaging as we watched the movie. Some are more nuanced for older kids, but you know your kids best. However you choose to have these discussions, just make sure you are having them! I hope these questions help spur on good conversation with your kids.

Discussion Questions for
An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win

1) Why did Melody's Papa say black people were safer on the moon than in Detroit?

2) Why were the kids in school mean to Melody?

3) What did Melody notice about the mannequins at the clothing store? How is Melody's shopping experience different than yours?

4) How did it make you feel watching the way Melody's family was treated?

5) In response to girls saying she doesn't belong at school, Melody says, "I belong everywhere you do." Is that true today?

6) What did Melody mean when she says "The Pledge of Allegiance is a lie"?

7) What differences do you notice between the school where Melody goes and the school where most of the kids in her neighborhood go?

8) What is it mean to be "indivisible?"

9) How can you work to make this country a better place for everybody?

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