When she was about 13 years old, Condoleezza Rice and her family moved from segregated Montgomery, Alabama to Denver, Colorado. It was a radical change, which introduced this young, brilliant girl to an entirely new world. One where she actually had white classmates, where she had equal opportunity to realize and explore her potential.
But as progressive as Denver was, it was not perfect, and one day Condoleezza Rice came home heartbroken that another student had gotten up and moved seats, refusing to be seated next to a black girl. You might have expected him to comfort her, to tell her that progress still had a long way to go, and to assure her that she was just as good as everyone else. Indeed, he might have done those things, but he also chose in that moment to give his daughter some pretty counterintuitive advice:
“It’s okay that some close-minded person doesn’t want to sit next to you,” he told her, “as long as they are the one that moves.” You can imagine, as a father who had just learned his daughter was being singled out and bullied, that the instinct would be to be outraged. Or to call the teacher.
Instead of making his daughter feel like a victim, he empowered her. He gave her a great gift in that moment—it was a gift of dignity and strength. Yes, he was telling her she couldn’t control what other thoughtless or mean people did. She could, however, decide not to let it affect her, not to let it change how she lived her life, or how she went about her own school day. If some racist kid (with racist parents obviously) wanted to change where they sat, that was their choice. But she didn’t have to bend or be changed by it. She didn’t have to let it get to her. They can move. She wouldn’t. That was her power.
And your kid should know they have that power too.