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I have a dream, that someday, boys won't call their brother 'stupid'

My five-year-old is so much like me, sometimes I blink and wonder if we're not one and the same. He really loved the lessons on Martin Luther King, Jr.; he had an amazingly deep and broad grasp of them. ("He was against the bad laws," he said. "And he broke them to show how bad they were.") Bravo, kid!

I was trying to get his older brother to finish his homework, tonight, all about how we're living Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. My oldest was frustrated because I'd told them all we had to help Truman do his homework before anyone could play on the screens (employing the much-maligned-by-me football coach strategy). When Truman said he couldn't think of anything to write, his older brother called him stupid! I was pretty mad.

"Everett," I said, "you're being really unkind."

Fast as a wink and outraged, Monroe shot, "you're not living Dr. King's dream!"

And Everett and I both burst out laughing, and finally, I was able to return to making subscription lists for the magazine.

How have your kids reacted to the school's annual MLK, Jr. history lesson? I love this time of year because it seems we're all studying the same thing; but I never know if the context gets lost, or not.


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MLK day was actually really good for us this year, because one child in my daughter's class was recently diagnosed with autism, and my daughter was able to make the connection between "we treat all people the same, regardless of how we are different on the outside" and "we treat everyone the same, regardless of how we are different on the inside." We read "Martin's Big Words," which uses quotes from Martin Luther King's own speeches to tell the story of his life, which my daughter was really into. She's only 3, so I did skip over some of the more violent parts, but I was really impressed with how interested she was and how much she seemed to get.

My son came home from school, and proceeded to name some people in his class who would not be allowed in his class if it weren't for MLK. For a 7-year old, that's a good retelling of what it's all about!

My five year old came home saying "All the white people didn't like the brown people and didn't want to be with them" and I think something got lost. I feel like a little bit of his innocence was taken away by telling him about this part of our history before he was ready to understand the complexity of it. He asked me if I was alive then. I told him, no, but grandma was, and she didn't believe those laws were right either. Some white people agreed with Dr. King.

I know what Nurtureshock says about white liberals talking (not) to their kids about race and I am a PPS employee who had been to the Beyond Diversity training and I've read Courageous Conversations About Race, so I'm well prepared for talking to him on this subject. But, can't he stay color blind a little longer? Can't it be about believing anyone can be anything they want and standing up for what you believe and not giving him the idea that people who look like him did a bad thing and that it was ever even considered that people who are brown were considered different?

People of color are still considered different and still face great prejudice (just look at the comment section on any Oregonian article about a Latinos or blacks and you'll be repulsed). It is your white priviledge that allows you and your child to be "colorblind" to begin with in this culture since you are the default and others are "different". MLK isn't just a story about standing up for what you believe in but a uniquely American fight for equality for people brought here as slaves to build this country and then forced to live under Jim Crow. It is a disgraceful history and there is no reason to sugar coat it. Viewing MLK without civil rights as the context is like viewing Gandhi without the fight for Indian independence. Both provide lessons that transcend their struggles but the struggle is an integral part of understanding them and their legacy.


Interesting! For years I have been accused of being racist because I'm white. Now I'm not racist only because I'm white?

My kids have learned about MLK at school. I'm very grateful for the fabulous job the teachers at school have done presenting the history of the Civil Rights movement in a way even the young ones are able to absorb. The wonderful part for me is how my kids react to stories of Jim Crow laws and discrimination. They are puzzled, confused, and completely dumbfounded--to them the idea that people would discriminate based on race is just nonsense.

Learning about the very real racist attitudes confronted by MLK does not suggest to them that the racists were correct. They don't look at their classmates who are African American in a different light. It only suggests to them that people in the past (and some in the present) believe some crazy things. Sometimes the kids want to talk about WHY anyone would embrace those beliefs, and that's a good discussion to have.

They take the same approach when they learn about discrimination against women. It does not push them to think that women are inferior just because they find out that in the past, people thought so. Does it cause them to think that this country isn't always and hasn't always been perfect? Does it cause them to question blindly patriotic rhetoric or statements in older children's books? Sure. But that's a good thing. Even a five-year-old is ready to know that people in the past thought some things that aren't correct.

My kids don't seem to identify too much with what their ancestors (or not, since parts of our family are more recent immigrants) may or may not have thought. So the idea that they should feel guilty for what white people did in the past is just as foreign to them as is the idea that they should think less of their friends who have darker skin.

My kids, and their friends as well from what I can tell, aren't naive. They understand that discrimination still takes place, even if it's more subtle. Again, I don't see any reason to encourage them to think they live in a fairy-tale world.

My 7 year old daughter's friend if black and we are white. She noted on the way home from her birthday party today that she might not be friends with her if it weren't for Martin Luther King, Jr. I told her that while the country was way more screwed up back when he was alive, there were plenty of white people who weren't prejudiced like her grandma who was a hippie and protesting as well. And while the civil rights activists changed our country dramatically for the better, there's still a long, long ways to go. My son is 10 and I explained that simply because he is a white male, he will automatically be at an advantage to people of color and women. This is not to make him feel guilty, but hopefully to make him an advocate for change which I know he'll be.

Seems like this is the same process kids go through learning about all sorts of things. We present something to them in simplified form, trying to still include some of the nuances. They absorb the simplified form, and repeat it in black-and-white terms (pun intended). We then know that they have the basics and work on the nuances some more.

I know we go through this with science and history in our house.

1) We don't just use MLK day to discuss racism and sexism, it's an all the time thing. Along with subtler racism AND sexism (like that my daughter gets in more trouble for having a forceful personality than boys in her classes do).

2) About the "stupid" thing---don't worry, it'll get much, much worse! My one of my 5 (yes they're all sisters) nieces, recently took to FB to publicly curse out (and I do mean curse) her next in age sister for the grevious crime of deleting an episode of "Pretty Little Liars" from their DVR.

The scariest part? She's almost 22. My SIL, was fully horrified by the whole thing---but really, if that made it to a public forum, imagine what turds they must be to one another. And they're an otherwise loving family.

My point---as you're probably already aware, siblings are completely horrible to one another. And yeah, you're frequently reduced to the status of referee. If anything be happy he didn't say worse!

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