"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don't recall exactly when or how I learned about the civil rights movement. I have childhood memories of questioning my parents about their experiences growing up in the Jim Crow south. The recollections shared with me were of two sets of water fountains and restrooms in public buildings in larger towns, one labeled 'colored' and one 'white'. When my parents were in high school in the mid-sixties, the 'black' school was condemned and the schools became integrated at that time. Their impression was that friends were made fairly easily and there was never any trouble they saw or heard about. Throughout my childhood I never had a discussion about the significance of these realities for their sleepy farm town, or for us in the present time. My sense was, that's just how things were. And things are better now. And while there are plenty of prejudiced people, they are outnumbered by people who know better. I spent a portion of my early childhood in that same town in the seventies. My family attended the 'black' church, while my grandparents attended the 'white' church. My understanding is that many years after we moved to Alaska the two churches combined, though there were some who stopped attending after the merge.
Cal's kindergarten teacher introduced me to NurtureShock. “To be effective...conversations about race have to explicit, in unmistakable terms that children understand.” (Chapter 3, “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race,” p. 63) The authors recommend that such discussions occur early, in preschool and kindergarten when children are already beginning to form their understandings and attitudes about race. The chapter was excerpted in Newsweek over a year ago and is available here.
At school and at home, in preparation for Marthin Luther King, Jr. Day we've been reading about Dr. King's life and discussing concepts of discrimination, segregation, non-violent protest, fairness, and respect. We've also read about other people involved in the Civil Rights Movement such as Ruby Bridges (a courageous first grader who was involved in desegregating one of the elementary schools in New Orleans) and Rosa Parks (who refused to get out of her bus seat, thereby initiating the Montgomery bus boycott, one of the key events in Civil Rights history).
In recognition of this day, here is an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr's Last Speech (full text here):
And this incredible performance of We Shall Overcome.