(reposted from this morning, with an awesome update)
At around 10:30 this morning, I sat down with my 6-year old son, turned on the Apple TV and brought up Martin Luther King Jr's full "I Have a Dream" speech on YouTube (the full 17-minute version, not the final 6-minute version that most people think of).
We watched the whole thing together. When it was over, he sat quietly for a moment, then turned to me and exclaimed, "Before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you and I wouldn't be able to sit next to each other on the bus!"
Now, what you have to understand is that I'm fairly dark-skinned...I'm caucasian, but definitely Mid-eastern-looking (I'm descended from Sephardic Jews). So, I definitely have a generally Spanish/Arabic/Mediterranean look to me.
My wife, however, is a very pale-skinned redhead, and our son ended up resembling her strongly--very light-skinned.
Anyway, I was taken aback for a moment, but then realized that 1) while he wasn't quite on the money technically (I'm dark-skinned for a white guy but am definitely not black), he absolutely gets the larger point, and 2) actually, back in the 50's it's entirely possible that, in some parts of the country, he might have been correct, in fact.
For that matter, my father--who was active in the original Civil Rights marches back in the '50's and '60's himself--was once denied service at a restaurant down South because they thought he was black himself (it was summer and he had a deep tan at the time).
Anyway, we talked about it a little bit--I explained that he and I probably would have been allowed to sit together, but he and one of his friends from school (who happens to be black) wouldn't have been allowed to in some parts of the country...and beyond that, they wouldn't be able to eat their snacks at the same table, or even at the same restaurant in some states, and so on.
Then he said that "Mrs. (his teacher) wouldn't be able to be my teacher before then either!"
You see, we're Jewish and his teacher is Christian. Now, again, he was technically not correct about this, but then again, there used to be plenty of country clubs and even entire housing communities where Jews were restricted from belonging or living, so again, he gets the larger point.
Anyway, after talking about this for a few minutes, I turned off YouTube and switched, live, to the 2nd Inauguration Ceremony of Barack Obama, our first African-American President, 50 years after MLK Jr's speech, held at (essentially) the same location as that earlier speech.
It was perfect, although he got bored part way through the speeches.
I'm very proud of my little guy.
HE GETS IT.
But that's not even the coolest part.
By sheer chance, my mom just happened to call this morning--she and my sister had made a spontaneous decision to take my nephews down to the Henry Ford Museum to check out a cool Lego display, and wanted to invite my son to join them. I couldn't go with them since I had to get some work in, but they picked him up right after the main Inauguration ceremony.
Well, when he got back home a few hours later and told me about his afternoon, it turns out that after the Lego display they also checked out a few of the other displays--including the actual bus that Rosa Parks rode in (well, the restored replica, anyway).
A trifecta of civil rights history in a single day.