|1987 May Day musical, South Pacific|
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight…
from the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1949 musical South Pacific
Monday afternoon, in observation of MLK day, roughly 100 students, faculty and staff gathered to watch the movie “Selma.” Afterwards we were invited to get into small groups to discuss what we had just seen, to identify the poignant moments of the movie.
Although I was unable to identify it then, the pivotal scene, for me, was the very first scene. Little girls, ages six or seven or eight, were walking down steps discussing their baptism and what the water was going to do to their hair, when a bomb blew up the church and killed them. Why? Just why… how…
Earlier that morning, I was struck by the number of early elementary students attending the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Lima with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. At first it seemed odd, then as the speaker explained it’s important that those who have first-person knowledge of the civil rights struggle, of Dr. King’s call for non-violence, to pass that knowledge on to future generations.
As if that wasn’t enough, the MLK Jr. Day Forum presenter Sr. Paulette Schroeder spoke about “The ‘Moral Courage’ Needed to Live Nonviolently” and about her time with CPT in Hebron, Palestine. She described how Palestinian children came to believe that every Israeli was evil because of the actions of the Israeli soldiers they encountered.
I’ve also thought about a story shared by Dale Dickey (emeritus professor of speech.) One of his students, I believe it was ’84 grad John (DC) Roger’s dad, was a regular visitor to the Dickey household. Dale’s young daughter loved spending time with this student.
One day, as she sat on his lap, she noticed a difference in their skin color. She rubbed his hand, rubbed her hand, and then ran off to play. As if to say “yes there is a difference, but it doesn’t make a difference.”