Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Explanations

Last night at dinner, I asked Fedila and Temima if they knew why they didn't have school yesterday. They didn't know. Now although that seems insane to us, just stop and think about it: how would they know? They have only been in America for a year, and only in school for about 6 months of that year. Apparently their current teacher did not feel the need to inform them of Dr. Martin Luther King's life and legacy, so last night we tried to explain to them why we were celebrating this man.

But then I realized something strange and wonderful. Those two girls with "brown skin" have never known the dark America of the past. They have never really experienced racism at the hands of white people and they know nothing of slavery. Although there are of course many negative things about the way they have grown up, think of how wonderful it is for them not to be burdened with the knowledge of the cruelty of Americans past. Amazing.

Of course ignorance is not bliss and sooner or later they will learn of the horrors of the past, but how wonderful that they will never experience those horrors firsthand. How wonderful that the only America they know is an America that elects a president who has brown skin just like them!

We gave them a brief history of the United States, telling them that a long time ago in America, people were mean to people with brown skin, and that Dr. King fought to change that and make people be nice to people with brown skin. We told them that Dr. King was killed and that we honor him one specific day a year for the work he did to help people with brown skin. They seemed to vaguely understand, and they seemed shocked and hurt by the revelation that people with brown skin were not always treated well. It was an interesting experience.

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