Nearly 20 years ago, I boarded a plane and headed to an African nation on a mission trip.

For three weeks I lived, talked, worshipped, prayed, developed friendships and fell in love with people whose skin color was different than mine.

Their skin and eyes were dark. Their spirit and heart radiated light.

We saw no differences in one other. Instead, we found what we have in common: humanity. And it was amazing.

I played ball with orphans, laughed with students and shared meals with the elderly. I hugged and held hands with those I met.

And it was there in Mozambique, I had a distinct moment of clarity. I became even more keenly aware of how deeply wounded our country is by racism and implicit bias.

I grew up in New Milford and was raised in a loving family that nurtured compassion and acceptance of all. My kids, 9 and 11, are raised with the same values.

But that is not the case for everyone.

Racial inequality has been part of the fabric of this country for centuries. Unfortunately, it continues to stare us in the face every day. Acts of injustice still occur in our communities.

Injustice and inequality have been brought to the forefront in a big way in recent weeks with the protests that have spread across the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of Minneapolis police who pinned him to the ground until he could no longer breathe.

Over the past several weeks, people of all ages, colors and religions have come together in solidarity to call for action.

Protesters stand on the steps of historic monuments, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago, in Washington D.C.

They march down the streets of major cities and rally in towns, as they did in New Milford June 8 and Washington June 2 (see photographs, this page, Page S3 and Page S9).

The images that have panned across the TV screen prompted a teachable moment and important conversation with my kids.

My daughter’s immediate response to seeing protesters was, “They know we’re in the middle of a pandemic and they can spread or catch COVID, right?”

I was impressed with her thought process, thinking of the safety of all those present. Not everyone has been wearing a face mask and/or following social distancing recommendations.

Her point adds depth to this historic moment. In the midst of a pandemic — when being in close proximity to one another comes with the risk of spreading or catching a virus that could mean life or death for someone — people are still willing to lift their voices and call for real change.

It is that important.

I explained to my children that Floyd’s death led people to take to their feet and that his death was not the first of its kind in our country.

We discussed the difference between peaceful protesters and those who agitate by participating in acts of violence, like fire-setting, looting and vandalism.

The kids brought up Dr. King. They asked me why people don’t treat everyone with respect and the same rights.

I have the same question.

How do we as Americans explain to our children that today, in the year 2020, 52 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, that racism and implicit bias still exist in our country and around the world?

We do so by being honest and equipping our children with the tools they need to become strong, well-rounded, kind individuals who make just decisions, speak truth and become advocates for equality.

And we model behaviors and instill values in our children that nurture compassion and love for all people.

The color of our skin may vary, but underneath we are all the same.

We are all members of humanity — each and every one of us — and are worthy of equal rights and treatment.

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at drose@newstimes.com.