Today I observed a 7th grade class participating in a Socratic Discussion on the themes in their books centered on the Civil Rights Movement. They’re just learning the format, and more importantly, they are just dipping their toes into a piece of American history that they’ve been protected from thus far.
Their questions were so innocent.
Why did people treat black people this way?
Where did this start?
What were they afraid of?
Why are people so slow to change?
Why weren’t laws upheld?
Their ideas were so insightful and timely.
Education provided advantages.
People are afraid of what they don’t know… of those who are different.
Whites found ways to hold power over minorities.
Nobody wants to change.
Change can only happen when the dominant culture joins in with the disadvantaged.
At the end of the discussion, one student started an avalanche of questions about how their eyes were just opened.
Why haven’t we ever learned this before?
Why have we heard of only Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr, but not Claudette Colvin or Emmit Till?
Why didn’t Dr. King ever see his Dream come true?
Sigh. I don’t need to tell you what I’m thinking about these kids’ wonderings. I don’t even think they’re all that remarkable. I believe these wonderings should live in all Americans’ hearts and minds.
But they don’t. What I’m wondering is how even though these students’ eyes have been opened and maybe their hearts have been changed, many will close their eyes- sooner than later. A run in with a high school student sporting a racist t-shirt this week proved me correct.
My choice is to persist: We take a stand. We march onward. Together.