Sunday, January 22, 2012

Boys and Books Supports Black History Month

Martin Luther King Jr.
As a grade school child, I remember watching the show, ROOTS, every night for a week. As each episode aired, I became more and more incensed at the treatment of the African American slaves. How could anybody do that to another human being, I wondered? My life was far removed from the racial tensions in the South. I had not even heard of the Freedom Fighters or Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, I lived in such an insulated white Utah community, I didn't even know any African Americans nor did I see any at school.

By the time I got to high school, I still had not one African American in any of my classes. I had Hispanics , Pacific Islanders, and Oriental classmates, but no blacks. As far as being racist, I wasn't. I couldn't fathom the idea. Those that were a different race than me, blended well in my school and I never thought twice about the color of their skin.

Even after I moved out of my insulated community and to another state, I never felt any racial tensions. The African Americans I worked with were part of the workplace, like anybody else. In the 1990's, at the age of 22, I moved to Chicago and for the first time in my life, I experienced racial tensions. The worst thing was that it happened to me in reverse. My husband and I were riding our bikes with our baby in the bike trailer. An African American male called us "white honky" and told us to get out of his neighborhood. I have to admit, I was quite naive and didn't know there were neighborhoods for whites and separate ones for blacks. It was a rude awakening to racial tension in America. I thought racial hatred were a thing of the past. I was about to learn my first history lesson.

Since then, I have read various books and articles on racial inequality and I understand some of the animosity coming from that black man. Do I agree? No! I feel that my child innocence was a good thing and that the idea that it didn't matter what color of skin you had should always prevail. While my children grew up, I always allowed them to choose friends of all varieties. We never discussed skin color. I was happy when their classrooms were dotted with colors from both ends of the black and white spectrum, with everything in between. I taught them they should judge a person on character and nothing else. I once heard one of my sons telling a racist joke. I was mad and told him it was inappropriate and why. He hadn't even thought about it, but now he does.

If we lived in the South, I think this lesson would have greater significance. Since we don't, I feel a great responsibility to teach my children about history and how important it is to never let bad historical events happen again. I recently received a book about the 1963 Birmingham Children's March. What a wonderful opportunity to learn about brave black children fighting against racial inequality. For the innocence of children everywhere, I hope the message continues on. This is why I support Black History Month.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

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