Thank You Dr. King

I’ve been trying for 3 days to explain who Martin Luther King is and why Maddie and Doug get the day off of school. Doug talked to the kids the other night about it too. I’ve been struggling.  Maddie has no concept of segregation. She lives in a diverse neighborhood, attends a diverse school(and church) and tends to delineate by behavior–who gets in trouble and who doesn’t. She never talks about her “black friend” so and so. He or she is a friend. No other distinction. To her, diversity is normal. The only time I have ever heard a reference to it is when she doesn’t know someone’s name and might describe them as “the boy/girl with the brown face”. So I was uneasy about pointing it out at the age of 6.  But I did.

I gave a VERY remedial history on slavery and discrimination. Then I explained a little about Dr. King and the changes he wanted us to make in our minds and hearts. She’s not a very conceptual person so without her having experienced some of these issues, she kind of smiles and nods while I talk. But what I thought was very cool was when I explained that if we were living back forty years ago, two of her school friends(I named them so she knew who I was talking about) couldn’t go to school with her. Her response, “well yeah because they’re always talking to each other and they have to be separated.” While I hung my head a little and told her the real reason, I was also grateful that she is growing up in a community where it doesn’t even occur to her that there is or ever was a problem.

I know in years to come she will gain a better knowledge and understanding and I am not so naive as to think that there still isn’t a long way for our society to progress. But I am thankful to Dr. King and the many others who took up the fight and continue to fight so that my daughter can live in a world where segregation means you get a time out because you talk too much in class.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Beth on January 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I had the same type of discussion with my boys (ages 4 & 5). I just asked them if they thought it would be fair if only kids with brown hair could sit in a restaurant/go to the park/swim in the pool, but no one with any other color hair. Everyone is a blonde in this house but me. They decided it wouldn’t be fair that they couldn’t really change the color of their hair (they haven’t figured out hair dye yet!) so everyone should be able to do everything. I then explained that many years ago things were different and people with darker skin were not allowed to do things with/like people with light skin and Dr. King helped the people see how they were wrong to not let everyone do things. I know this lesson didn’t teach the kids the depth of what Dr. King accomplished or to what extent segregation was, but it gave them a basic understanding that can grow as they get older.


  2. Posted by Dan on January 22, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Kelsey is the same way at school. Her classmates are her friends – doesn’t matter what their skin color is. One time she was trying to describe someone in her class (they were hispanic) and, of course, she didn’t know what hispanic was – so she said that the person had “really, really black hair.” How cool to grow up and not even know the “N” word or any other slanderous slang words for people of other races.


  3. That’s wonderful that your kids can live in a diverse society. Down here in the mid-south, racism is more in our midst. People live in “black neighborhoods”, etc. Some of our previous generation especially, are very prejudiced and it’s really hard to break free from that and not expose our kids to it. I was raised, thankfully, to not think that way, but the influences were still around and we weren’t living in a diverse area either. I can only hope to raise my kids in a way that Dr. King would be proud of.


  4. It’s amazing how little we can appreciate the struggles of people before us. I was thinking about this recently, but in terms of the economy. We know so little of what it means to hurt and when our economy begins to suffer, I’m reminded of my grandparents who suffered through the great depression. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to eat the things I want when I want. I don’t want to suffer as those people suffered, but am thankful for the reminder they give me to simply be thankful.

    So, agreed. Thank you, Dr. King!


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