Monday, January 10, 2005

Abraham Lincoln

T, my 7 year old, is in first grade. They're having to do a presentation on famous Americans. T's first pick was George Washington, but one of the other boys picked him first. T's second pick was Thomas Edison, and the other boy in the class picked him.

Ding, exactly. There are only 3 boys in T's class. And 4 girls. It's a great school, and I'm not telling you where it is, because then there will be 30 kids in his class and we'll have to move.

Anyway, the good news is that any other American male from the past 400 years is open. But honestly, what are the chances that both of T's top picks would get taken by the only two other boys in his class? Weird.

After some fatherly coaching, he picks Abraham Lincoln. And so, after tonight's bedtime story (Captain Underpants again), we discuss who Lincoln was and why he was so great.

The curse, "may you live in interesting times," comes into play here. It is impossible to discuss why Lincoln was so great and admirable without discussing the bad stuff going on around him.

Things I had to explain, in 5 minutes, at bedtime, so that a 7-year-old could understand:
  • Civil War
  • The North and the South
  • Slavery
  • Black people
  • Emancipation
Yes, you read that right. I had to explain to my son the term "black people."

At some point in the discussion, I told him what slavery was: that some people liked to make other people do their work and not pay them for it. And they could be very mean to them without getting in trouble. I asked him if he thought that was right, and he said no (good boy).

Then I said that people in the South wanted to keep slaves, and people in the North didn't. Heading off what I thought was an inevitable question, I told him that white people in the South wanted to keep all the black people in slavery.

He then said, and I quote verbatim, "What are black people?" I was stunned; I almost cried.

I finally said, "well, some people have darker skin than others, and sometimes they're called black people." He said okay, and we moved on to discussing his new karate moves.

Let's pause here to point out some things. We live in DeKalb County, GA, which as of last census is over 50% African-American. Our church has immigrant families from almost every continent on the globe (not Antarctica, I think).

T sees, talks, and plays with folks every day who look both very similar to and very different from him, and he's observant enough that he knows that there are differences. It just doesn't matter, apparently.

Kids these days.

My other definitions, if you care to use them:
  • Civil War - people from the same country fighting each other
  • The South - states down south, like Georgia, Alabama, Virginia ("And Texas?!" he asks, excitedly; "Yes, and Texas.")
  • The North - states up north, like New York, Illinois (that's all I could think of at the time; sorry folks)
  • Emancipation - setting slaves free and treating them like people should be treated


Post a Comment

<< Home