Conversations with my son: On civil rights

by the lake“But I didn’t get any time to play with you today!”

That’s okay. Some days it’s just more difficult because of the things we have to get done. But we get a three day weekend, so that will make up for it.”

“Three days?”

Yeah, Monday is Martin Luther King Junior day. It’s a holiday so the school is closed and my office is closed.

“What is Martin blah blah blah day?”

Martin Luther King Junior was a leader of the civil rights movements years and years ago. See, people used to think that certain people deserved to be treated better depending on the color or shade of their skin. If you had a certain skin color, you could only use certain drinking fountains, go to certain schools and restaurants. Martin Luther King Junior was one of many people who didn’t think this was fair, and believed that all people should be treated equally. So he did a lot of things to protest the inequalities, including making one particularly famous speech. It’s called the I Have a Dream Speech. He said that he had a dream one day a person would be judged on the content of their character, and not on the color of their skin. So by how you act rather than what you look like. He was a very important figure in the civil rights movement.

“What’s that?”

Well, civil is like in civilization. So people. It’s about the rights of the people.

“But everybody is not the same. We’re all different.”

That’s true. We’re all different, and we all have things that are special about us. People even come in all different skin tones and shades, but that doesn’t have any bearing on what the person is like and how they should be treated. Think about you and me. Should we be treated differently because I’m a girl and you’re a boy?

“No. You can do stuff I can’t because you’re a grown-up. But that’s just because I’m not old enough yet.”

Exactly. And when you’re old enough, you’ll be able to do those things too.

“I don’t like that people weren’t nice to each other. That’s just not fair.”

It’s not, but you have to understand that – for a while – people didn’t really understand. They had been taught certain ideas when they were young, and it was hard to change their minds. People still have to work hard these days to ensure that all people are treated equally. But if you look at how things used to be, and how they are now, you can see that a lot has changed. We’re moving forward and that’s important.


[Author’s Note: My conversation about Martin Luther King Jr. was preemptive. They did actually study King in school a couple days later, the day before they started their three-day weekend.]

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