Monday night I had grandchildren ages 8, 6 and almost 4 awake way beyond their bedtimes. It is spring break and they didn’t have to go any place the next day. They came down to watch Rep. John Lewis on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. (More)
Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.
The oldest two know who Rev. Martin Luther King was. They have a white child’s view of the civil rights struggle and they are kids. Rather than miss Lewis’ appearance, I let them watch with the instruction that he was a very important hero of the struggle for equality for black people. In other words, “just listen.”
Lewis mentioned that only 2% of blacks could vote in Alabama. He mentioned that doctors and lawyers and professors could not vote because of the ‘literacy tests.’ He said they were marching at Selma to get blacks the right to vote. There were photos of the beatings by the Alabama State Police to try and stop the march.
All three kids were attentive and quiet during the show. When it was over they had questions. The oldest two asked how this could happen. The youngest had tears on her checks and said, “This makes me very sad. How could the police just beat them like that?”
As a way of trying to put this into terms that maybe three white kids could get, I brought up the brown eyes, blue eyes analogy. I pointed out that what color skin someone was born with was not a choice. That it was really unfair that people with white skin had an easier time than people with black skin. (The older two instantly corrected me with “or brown skin.”)
“Let’s say that instead of skin color, people were discriminated against based on eye color. Who has blue eyes,” I asked.
Three hands went up and three faces smiled.
“What would it feel like, you blue eyed people, if people with brown eyes got to go to the best schools and get the best jobs just because they had brown eyes? What if people with brown eyes could vote easily and people with blue eyes could not? Voting is after all how people make the government do what they want. Civil rights and John Lewis and Martin Luther King were all about black and brown people getting the right to vote.”
That’s the short version of civil rights according to Nana. I know there are links somewhere to the brown eyed, blue eyed ‘game’ and I remember Rosabeth Moss Kanter somehow informing me with X’s and O’s. At 10 pm I dug for whatever I thought might be relevant.