Black People : Diary of a First-Year Teacher: Racism Is Alive and Well for Kids in the Mississippi Delta

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Keita Kenyatta, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. Keita Kenyatta

    Keita Kenyatta going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

    Feb 7, 2004
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    As I prepared to teach my students about Martin Luther King, Jr. this last week, King’s own words on Mississippi rang in my ears:
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
    Before moving to the Mississippi Delta, I believed that King’s dream had become a reality. I thought the atrocities of King’s time were left in the pages of history books. But in the Delta, that history book is still open. There is still much path to tread before it’s truly transformed into “an oasis of freedom and justice.”
    So, how do you go about talking about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, in a place where it has yet to be fully met? What I found was, you let the children talk.

    Children see the world simply. When we are small, we make sense of our surroundings by generalizing our experiences. Slowly these generalizations expand as we experience new things, and we begin to see the world more and more complexly.
    Growing up in a largely segregated community, my students see a world that is still divided by black and white.
    Growing up in a largely segregated community, my students see a world that is still divided by black and white. I was worried my answers to their difficult questions would be insufficient. Fortunately, I was but a facilitator to my students answering their own tough questions.
    I was humbled to find that instead of my pushing their thinking, it was the students who were able to beautifully and simply explain what Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in.
    I asked my students, “What did Martin Luther King fight for?”
    One student responded, “He fought to keep white people away from black people.” It was the response I had feared, but knew it would lead to the most important lesson for my students. So I began, “Actually, no, not at all. This is really important, you guys. Listen closely, I need everyone’s eyes and ears.” They leaned in close, ready to listen, but another student raised her hand. I called on her, “Yes, Nat