Happy Birthday, Dr. King
D came home from school last week singing various songs about Martin Luther King. Very cute. The school also showed his class a movie that apparently involved time travel and how the world would be different if Dr. King hadn’t lived. In particular, D was quite concerned that if it weren’t for Dr. King, black kids and white kids couldn’t go to school together and he wouldn’t have hardly any friends!
I didn’t want to spoil D’s enthusiasm, but two things about that claim disturb me:
First, I’m wondering if educators show the same film in inner-city classrooms that are 100% minority. As Jonathan Kozol points out, if you visit any school in America that is named after Dr. King or Rosa Parks, the chances are that it will be just as segregated as any school before Brown vs. Board of Education.
Second, with all due respect to Dr. King, I think it does a disservice to the civil rights movement to suggest that it all hung on one man. The path might well have been different — and quite possibly more violent — but I find it hard to imagine that we’d still have legal segregation in the US even if Dr. King had never lived.
I’m guessing I may have an annual series of posts for as long as I continue blogging, quibbling about how the schools talk about Dr. King. Last year’s edition is here.