History Lessons and Trayvon MartinKelly Wickham
I have something to say about history. It’s not nearly as boring as I once erroneously believed. History, I have learned, is in the making and in the current events of the day because they are shaped by what has come before us. That’s what I teach my children anyway. We do it by watching the news together and not just by watching what’s on the American news channels, but on news stations across the world to see how others view Americans and how they report on what is going on in our country. “If you want to know what’s going on in America, don’t just rely on Twitter and Facebook and CNN. Watch it all, kids.” My children have heard this from me time and again. Once, I even had them watch Glenn Beck on Fox News. I’m all kinds of inclusive and controversial as a mother.
That lasted about one day and then my kids were sickened by the spinning and posturing of fear-mongering journalism.
Last year my eldest son, Mason, asked why his friends were so angry and why they were always baiting him about politics and, at times, religion. We lean Left, that is no secret. But when my children were younger we belonged to a very Right-leaning conservative non-denominational church who didn’t make secret their beliefs from the pulpit. It was disheartening to see the preacher undo all the work I had tried to instill in my children at home and what was important to us. But, as a young mom, I made the error in judgment regarding taking my kids to church. I thought that it was a “good idea” and that they would learn how to take care of others by attending a place where we read the Bible, something I hadn’t done as a child in the Catholic church. My Catholic school upbringing gave me the chance to attend Mass on a regular basis, but reading the Bible wasn’t a part of that journey. We simply read the Homily and if there was any scripture in that it was printed in the pamphlet and, by God, if you were supposed to know any more about what was in the Bible the priest would let you know!
Growing up with that and all the mystique that surrounds the Catholic church it’s no wonder that when I became a pre-teen and started to question everything that I wanted to read the Bible. The enormous white leather bound Bible with gold-edging on the pages that sat on the coffee table. The Bible that no one was allowed to actually read. We were just to revere its presence, but never to actually see what it had to say. By the time I was a teenager I was bucking all kinds of traditions we were exposed to growing up and I read it from cover to cover to see why everyone kept it from me.
That’s why I allowed my children to stay in that church but I also made sure that our world was colored with different people. Our Indian babysitter who covered her head every time my ex-husband came to pick up our son. Our gay former-Mormon friend who is a college professor. Our Jewish friends who invited us to Seder at Eastertime to remind my children that, yes, Jesus was Jewish. It’s these kinds of history lessons that help my children see the world in a global view and not through a narrow lens that enables them to embrace people of all faiths and cultures.
It is probably why I insisted that Kaylee, our newest child who grew up in a secluded, white, Christian home know all about Trayvon Martin. She has asked questions and sought to view the entire fiasco as critically as possible because we talk about it in our home, at the dinner table, and when we’re driving her to her classes. She’s known very few Black people in her upbringing and I am, both intentionally and unintentionally, rocking her world view right now. When children get a taste of the world outside of their own homes they are reminded of what they know and they are smacked into a reality of all the things they don’t know.
It is definitely why I mentioned that there was a protest march/memorial walk for Trayvon today in town. She has asked good questions about why the murderer hasn’t yet been arrested and why there is a smear campaign against him. Kaylee is a thinker and what is lovely about her is that once she has a thought it comes right out of her mouth. She isn’t shy about not knowing or understanding something, but she is inquisitive and bright enough to ask the hard questions. Sometimes, she whispers them when she thinks it might be a silly question, but I keep encouraging her to speak up and ask them in a safe place. That’s what we’ve tried to create for her in our home and she has taken to it like a fish to water. When I told her I thought she would ask more questions and want to discuss it further. Instead, she immediately asked, “We’re going, right? I think we should go.” History is being made and created right before her eyes and she doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to learn as much as she can right now. For her, the field is ripe and what she is learning about White privilege and the intricate, delicate, convoluted nature of that led her to step further outside her protective bubble and see people for something other than the old stereotypes that have been presented to her.
History isn’t boring at all. Especially not when you’re questioning authority and figuring out your place in the world. She is making history every day.