Sunday, January 14, 2007

Martin Luther King Day.

So tomorrow is MLK Day. It is a pretty big deal down here in Georgia. I only mention that because I have heard it is not a big deal in other areas of the country. The kids have off school and the banks and federal buildings are all closed.

The kids in the public schools--I can't speak for the privates--have been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. I know this for two reasons: the first is because I grew up going to Georgia public schools (I know when you read that sentence you thought: that explains everything) and second because Carmella told me on the way to dance class Friday that she learned about King at school last week.

Wow, a history lesson for the kindergartners. That is great.

So I asked if they talked about his I have a Dream speech. I even quoted a few lines for good measure. See, I can do that because I had to memorize the speech when I was in school-- along with the Gettysburg Address and the General Prologue to the The Canterbury Tales (in middle English no less. I hope you can see my eyeroll: Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote/The droght of March hath perced to the roote.) In undergrad I even had to learn how to correctly pronounce the middle English. Waste. Of. Time.

Anyway, I didn't quote any of that stuff for her. I'll save it for a later, more apropos time. No need to show everything I've got right off the bat. The plan is to reveal slowly that I know everything! It already annoys her when she asks me if I can spell certain words and I can. She is asking because she wants to show me that she can. And I know I should pretend that I don't know how to spell dog but I am such a show off by nature I am spelling before I realize why she asking me. Just yet another reason why I am not in the running for Mom of the Year.

Yeah, so . . . about the speech. Did she learn that?
No, she said.
Wow, okay, did you learn that he received the Nobel Peace Prize?
What prize did you say Mommy? Is that a trophy?
Sigh uh no, not exactly, it is better than a trophy, bigger. Never mind. Did you learn that he was major leader of the Civil Rights movement?
Then she asked me to repeat the speech. I complied:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, " I said, trying to intone King's booming and passionate preacher voice. For good measure, I added, "Let freedom Ring! Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee . . ."
Sound familiar, I asked?
Uh, no. Never heard that.
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last?"
Okay then exactly what did you learn about Martin Luther King Jr.?
That he died.
And I had no response to that.
My guess is that they told all these little 5 and 6 years old about all the highlights of King's life and probably even showed them a tape of his speech. At least I hope they did. And then they probably talked about how he was assassinated.

And I am guessing that was the last thing they told them and it was the most dramatic and that is what they remembered from their lesson.

I am not worried though.
We aren't moving, so I know she's got many more years to learn about King. She'll get it eventually. I do, however, wonder how her generation will process the racial issues of the past when they get their history lesson. And brace yourself, I am about to make one gross political statement that has the potential to offend but from my side of the fence I stand by it: I personally don't believe that there are races issues or even gender issues in this nation any longer--okay, wait, let me say for the most part I don't believe that there are racial issues. Yes, I will concede, that there is a select few that attempt to persevere the racist thinking of the past but by in large I think the race issue has evolved into an economic issue that divides people socially, culturally and politically--at least when it comes to the black/white race issue. So, I just wonder what it will be like for Carmella and Beau's generation to try to understand the struggles of the civil rights movement and the racism that once so violently pervaded the thinking in our country.


  1. It will be interesting if our kids' generation will be able to remain as color-blind as they seem to be now. If the cultural/socio-economic thing will be just that or if they will label it with ethnicity or color or whatever.

    I definitely see your point, though.

  2. I just hope that "education" doesn't cause them to loose their color-blindness. You know, to never know that there was a difference and then have it pointed out that, yes, actually, at one time it was considered a difference and then in turn be forced to reconsider their color-blindness because of past--albeit misguided-- history. Hopefully, King's message will transcend that and "ring" clear.
    I am hoping it will make no more sense to them than it did to me when I first learned of the Holocaust. I was equally removed from that as they will be the Civil Rights movement. I just remember being blown away that such a thing had happend and the thinking that had led to it--even at very young age. It. Was. That. Unbelievable.