Monday, January 21, 2013

Getting It

There are things some of us take for granted unless we pay close attention...

The other night at ESL tutoring we worked through a unit on Martin Luther King, Jr.  Being adult "basic, level two" students, none have yet attended their US citizenship course.  As I told my group an exceedingly brief account of the civil rights movement in the United States it was clear that these new Americans, especially those with black or brown faces, understood the concept of discrimination.  Most understood political violence and second class status.  Many had heard of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience, though most seemed unconvinced as to its efficacy or safety.  

There was one thing that clearly shocked every student.  Every one of these refugees, whose lives have been wracked by poverty, political repression, religious strife, civil war, and life in resettlement camps, every last one of them were aghast when I told them that racial segregation was legal in the USA as recently as the 1960s.  They looked at me like I'd told them a joke they didn't understand.  I had to assure them that the era of Jim Crow was both sad and true.  

After the reading and writing lesson we gathered to watch a portion of Dr. King's I Have a Dream Speech.  The video was still running when the class came to an end, but these very busy adult students - who have no end of places they must be - sat in rapt attention until its conclusion.

Photo credit:

1 comment:

  1. I recall my high school class trip in the 1960s. returning from DC back to pennsylvania we stopped for lunch somewhere in Maryland. The few black students in our class remained on the bus. turns out the restaurant did not serve "coloreds." They knew it; most of the white students didn't. I was one of the ones who were clueless. Once the rest of the class became aware of what happened, a few of the white students returned to the bus in "solidarity" - a word none of us knew or understood. Most of the students went in to eat anyway. they were hungry. the seeds of radicalization get planted in unexpected ways.