Thursday, March 13, 2008

If Only

Once upon a time, I was a teacher. My kids were inner city little guys, second graders, in a school with a population of mostly minority students.

In February of my second year there, I began a Black History Month celebration. As part of the unit, we researched famous African Americans, read about their accomplishments, discussed what we learned, then wrote up reports to display around the room and in the hallway.

One day, we had just finished reading about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the term "racism" was used in the book.  I decided to do an informal comprehension check.

"We read that Dr. King felt racism was wrong, and he worked hard to change how African Americans were being treated," I said. "So, what do you think racism is?"

I waited, watching their seven-year-old minds whirring. After a second or two, a few hands went up.

I scanned the room, then settled my gaze on Juan. He was practically bursting at the seams, waving his arm furiously and bouncing in his seat.

"Juan?  What is racism, do you think?"

He flashed a proud, dimpled grin, and said, "It's what drivers do!"

I'm not sure what I was expecting him to say, but that wasn't it. I pressed further.  He seemed so confident in his response. What was he thinking that I wasn't?

"Drivers?" I asked.

"You know," he said, gripping an imaginary steering wheel in front of him.  "A race driver, with the cars... he races 'em!" 

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