Updated: Feb 4
KULTURMAMA'S NOTE: Part of my journey as a white, CIS woman has been cultivating an awareness around how my identity has shaped my experience and learning over the years. What follows is also a commitment to uncovering my own blind-spots, so as not to (un)consciously perpetuate stereotypes or one-sided versions of history which tacitly uphold unjust systems. Well friends, after our Storytime, and this blog post, I uncovered a blind spot which I find important to share transparently here. Namely, that the white perspective on Dr. King's legacy prefers a moderate telling of his life, focused on hopefulness and peaceful resistance. What is sacrificed is the more radical anti-capitalist thinking and disappointment in the passivity of white moderates. I found this article as well as a rereading of Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail very useful in my unlearning.
I remember as a teenager being enraged in history class at the realization that my childhood recitation of "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492" erased entire swaths of history - that children would be fooled by such a gleeful rhyme seemed to me a callous and intentional forgetting of a violent colonialist past. However when my professor offered me the opportunity to pay a visit to the school's kindergarten to rectify the error, I understood the layers of complexity involved in accurate yet age appropriate (un)learning
Then as here, I'm left with the question which is pretty much always present for me, "How might we, as parents, educators and storytellers lay an honest, just, age appropriate yet nuanced historical groundwork for children to grow (eventually) into understanding the complexity of these issues? What do I need to know about my self and the tools I've been given in order to hold a just learning space?"
No answers here, just transparency, and a commitment to always dig deeper, try, fail, learn, and try again.
[Original Post Below]
Today in our online storytime we honoured the legacy of a central figure in the American Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(Photo Credit: Rowland Scherman - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain - Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, calling for an end to racism)
Dr. King not only shared with us his dream for a world where racism no longer existed, he modelled for us a compassionate approach to peaceful resistance. His teachings feel frustratingly all the more relevant today in light of the globalization of the black lives matter movement, and the growing visibility of discussions around race, privilege, power and justice.
Learning how to hold honest conversations with young children that honour the complexity of these issues is a skill I'm slowly learning (by doing). There are many great resources out there for parents, especially white parents, who want to do the same. Two of my favorite go-to references are Raising Race Conscious Children and We Stories; couple that a few book recommendations from We Need Diverse Books and you're off to a great start.
A necessary compliment to this dialogue is also cultivating the emotional intelligence that we (kids big and small) need to commit to the lifelong learning journey around topics of social justice. In the words of Susan Verde from her fantastic book I Am Human, to know that we will make mistakes and have the resilience to keep learning, stay curious, and "keep trying to be the best version of ME."
Dr. King had a dream, how about you? What hopes and dreams do our children have for the world they want to live in? And you? How might we keep those dreams present and activated in our daily lives? Here is a downloadable template to help you and your child visualize those thoughts and keep your dreams in plain sight, inspiring you daily!