While You Were Way

Dear Dr. King,

Just last year, my sister came home wondering why everyone laughed at her when she asked, "Am I African-American?"

I don't understand, either, why the teacher also thought it was funny so much that she did a "all right class, let's show Lily what African American means" by asking the students to stand up if they were "African American."

The teacher thought her question was so funny, she made a point to call my Mom about it later that night. She was surprised she would say something so absurd in a classroom. To think, to ask a question in a classroom seemed out of sorts to this woman.

"Generally she's cooperative and helpful in the classroom," I heard her say as my Mom put the speaker phone on followed by a "I didn't know Lily was such a crack up."

My mom said to me quietly cupping her hand over the receiver that she could smell the teacher's peppermint breath.

My mom asked "Well ...what do you mean?" pretending not to know anything, offering the teacher her a chance for final redemption.

"Oh.... it was the funniest thing really ..." she went on ending with "she's such a sweet and cooperative kid, I was just so surprised that she would ask a question like that. Surely she's made that connection."

I don't remember exactly where the conversation went after that but it wasn't too long before my mother said, "nice talking to you and good bye." But can you imagine, Dr. King?

Can you image a child asking a question in a classroom? A question "like that?" What does it mean?

Is it so hard for a teacher to imagine a child growing up in world not knowing about prejudice or labels? A teacher who cannot imagine a child growing up in a world who doesn't see black or white? A teacher who cannot imagine a curious child exploring a world without experiencing physical barriers?

Who teacher who cannot imagine a world that embraces each other's differences instead of valuing only what we share in common?


Your's truly,

Elisabeth

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