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Bending towards Justice

School’s out Monday for MLK day. As they do with all holidays, the teachers at Brandeis are discussing this one as part of the social studies curriculum. Wimp that I am, I have not brought up racial or religious intolerance with Simon. We’ve talked about how we’re all the same in our hearts and how different backgrounds should all be respected, but I have consistently left out the part where others disagree. The teachers at Brandeis—even the kindergarten ones—are not wimps. Thus, our conversation before the lights went out last night. The first speaker is Simon. My thoughts along the way are in brackets.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a hero.”

[Did they keep this vague?] “He was a hero. Do you know why?”

“He gave big speeches, like ‘I Have a Dream’.”

“Do you know what his dream was?”

“I don’t think so.”

[If you are going to know that much, you might as well know what it means.] “His dream—and ours—is that one day everyone will be judged by who they are and not what they look like.”

“Yea, because before Dr. Martin Luther Jr. (the King gets lost sometimes), I couldn’t have gone to the same school as Menelik.”

[Bingo! Menelik is a delightful African-American boy.] “That’s right. And Menelik is a good boy and your friend! He’s also smart and a really good student. So how silly was that?”

“Not silly, Mama. Wrong. I don’t like that.”

[I’ve just been called on downplaying important stuff by my six-year-old. A threshold has been crossed.] “I don’t like it either. It is wrong.”

“But Mama, why did someone kill Dr. Martin Luther, Jr.?”

[So they went there. Oh boy.] “It’s hard to explain, honey. The best I can say is that when the world changes, even when it changes for the better, some people can’t handle it and they do crazy and terrible things.”

“And even before they went to different schools, blacks were slaves.”

[Oh boy. They went there. Am I ready for this?] “Yes. It makes me very sad to think about that.”

“I’m glad Dr. Martin Luther Jr. changed the world, Mama.”

“I am too. We’ve still got a ways to go before we’re fair to everyone, but we’re getting better all the time. Can I tell you another thing Dr. Martin Luther King said?”

“Sure Mama.”

[This is above his grade level, but I wanted to end on a positive note.] “I’m going to say it first, and then I’ll explain it. ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ The world your grandparents grew up in wasn’t as fair as the one I did. And the one I grew up in wasn’t as fair as the one you are. And one day your kids will probably grow up a world that’s fairer than what we have now.”

He liked that. I fervently hope it’s true. And now I need to crawl out of my wimpy shell, because Brandeis is obviously going places I have avoided.


One Response to “Bending towards Justice”

  1. Amanda says:

    What an awesome mom you are. I’m not surprised, but frequently have to be reminded.

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