Martin's Big Words

Today presented an exciting opportunity for me to talk about something I deeply care about. I've grown to love teaching (maybe in part because I love the sound of my own voice?), but until now I don't often get a chance to talk about something I feel passionate about. Talking about Dr. King and reading the book Martin's Big Words was nice both as a former political science and history major and as an idealist.

For once it felt like I was talking about something real, something important. And I hoped that the students would get into it as well. It's hard to say for sure if it happened for them. If I was able to flip that switch in that brains that gets them to care. But at the very least it was a nice change of pace for me.

At the same time, it felt almost hollow to be having this conversation centered on race relations with a class of students all of whom are Black or Hispanic. The conventional narrative is that, as my kids put it "Blacks and whites didn't want to be friends," until finally Dr. King came along and everything was fine because they took down the Whites Only signs. And yet we live in a country of very unequal opportunities and my school and the thousands of "high-need" schools like it are the most ugly reminders of that fact. But can I really have that conversation with my kids? Perhaps it's better to emphasize hope and stick to the fairy tale.


Marcy said…
I'm not sure what you mean by "hollow". If there is any group of students with whom we should be engaging in conversation re: race relations is students of color. There are as many problems within a race of people as there are between races. In fact, those intra-racial conflicts are often what keeps a race of people from realising its full potential. Malcolm X spoke a lot about this. And, people of color often don't know as much about history as we should. So, keep doing the good work.

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