Susan Kennedy Marx: Questions values children are learning

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Sunday, January 07, 2018
Questions values that children are learning

What values are America’s children learning? We must step up our actions in 2018.

Fifty years ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on Christmas Eve, I was 18. One of my parents was Canadian First Nations and the other Irish, so I walked through the world white. The power and privilege attached to whiteness (but not my gender) came in my direction predictably. However,I walked with what I have come to know as a First Nations spirit.

Dr. King’s commitment to the overarching interconnections among us inspired me. When he said, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly,” I held great hope for the deep and lasting impact of those values.

I watched power overshadow implicit bias across the years. I saw racism, economic injustice and the overwhelming diminishment of people — many of whom were children — who I believed sacred.

I wanted to be a teacher because it was the children who promised hope, change and justice. I love seeing young children’s explorations, empathy, inclusivity and humor. Couldn’t I work with like-minded adults to interrupt injustice and enhance the hearts and minds of schoolchildren?

Leaders, many representing the global majority, informed and mentored me. During Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s presidential inauguration at Spelman College, I met Coretta Scott King. I apologized for “us” and shared that I knew we should have done much more to ensure that Dr. King’s precious, short-lived life was safe and free.

So what about now? What are our youngest seeing about power, privilege, truth and purposeful actions as the new year begins? What are the values that are visible in front of them?

Unjust, repeating sacrifices made real in poverty, ill health and mass incarceration require that we step up. Our resistance and persistent actions are key. We are being offered new opportunities to wake up and step up.

Fifty years after Dr. King’s prophetic calls for our attention to human and global interconnectedness, what will our children, all of them, see us stand up for?

Susan Kennedy Marx