Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More History Lessons

We were driving in the car on the way to a Super Bowl party when Ethan announced, "If someone gives up their seat for an old person on a bus, that's segregation."

"Um, no..." I started to say.

"Yes! We learned about it in school! The people who were black had to give up their seats for the people who were white. And they didn't get to go to the same schools, and at some of the restaurants they had to stand up while the white people were eating."

"I know, buddy. That wasn't right."

"I am glad everyone in our family is white so that wouldn't happen to us."

"Well, Eeth, thankfully that doesn't happen anymore. Or it shouldn't. It's very wrong to treat people a certain way because of the color of their skin."

He went on, obviously repeating the lesson they'd learned. "...and the only place where all were welcome was the library."

"Really? I'd never thought about that before."

"But mamma, if someone is on a bus and gives up their seat, that is segregation!"

"No, hon. Not exactly. When you look at someone who is older or who looks weak and that they can't stand for a long time, that's called courtesy. That's just caring about someone and putting their needs before your own because you are young and don't have a problem standing. And it's not just on the bus...it could be on a train-"

"-Or a subway?"

"Yes. Anywhere like that. That's not the same as being forced to give up your seat just because of the color of your skin."


February is Black History Month, and I'm assuming Ethan probably had some very specific lesson he learned in class about all of this. Sometimes he jumbles up facts and needs clarification, but I'm glad he's learning.

I'm glad we live in a very diverse town that to me is the kind of place that would have given Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hope. Neither of my kids usually describe people by the color of their skin.

I'll never forget the day last year when Ethan was learning about Martin Luther King. "But why did they do that, mama? Why did someone kill him just because he was black?" Tears were welling in his eyes.

I didn't have a good answer. I still don't.

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