Teaching my kids about Martin Luther King Jr

As my kids rejoice at having a 3 day weekend, I asked if they know why. “It’s Martin Luther King’s birthday!” explained my 7 year old. He proceeded to explain that Martin Luther King had a dream that he told people about, and that he lead a march. He understood this was history and that it was somehow important, but you could tell it didn’t quite click. So I thought I’d take this chance to teach my kids about prejudice and about fighting it.

I reminded them that me and daddy have different colors of skin. If we were living during that time, daddy would have had to use different water fountains and restrooms, he would have lived in different neighborhoods with less resources. I explained that we couldn’t have been married, or that if we had, people would hate us, yell at us, hurt us. I reminded my sons of the voting ballet I recently reviewed with them and explained that people with darker skin wouldn’t have been able to vote, or if the did it would count for less.

I could see it starting to sink in what people faced in those times and I pulled up images of the riots. I said “this is how some people tried to fight. There was violence, guns, things got broken, people were hurt, some people died. That is not what made the change” I then pulled up images of the march “this is what Martin Luther King did to fight. This is what made a change and what we celebrate. They are standing there peacefully. This is how we make changes.”

I then pointed out one more thing in the images “look at the white people in the march. They had the rights that black people did not, but they stood with them because they believed in equality. We should always stand for equality even if we are not the ones being treated bad.” 

I explained that there is still prejudice now. That up until last year gay people couldn’t get married, and that they should have the same right to get married that me and daddy do. I explained that a there were times in other places that Christians weren’t allowed to go to church and pray, that Grandma and Grandpa would have had to pray in secret. And that we face that here now with Muslims who are feared so treated badly. 

My son asked me why muslims would be treated bad when they are so nice. So we discussed that in every group some people are not nice, and that causes fear. Fear is causing people to not see how nice most of the muslims are.

It is hard to know that we still have to fight for equality. That Martin Luther King Jr’s fight is not done, his dream is not yet fully realized. But it is beautiful to see that my sons so fully believe that all should be treated equally and that the majority of people are nice. Perhaps it is through us teaching our children that each generation makes progress. My family with stand peacefully for equality, and I can’t wait to see the progress that I am believing for.

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