by Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder
Activity: Have a treat available, perhaps some fresh baked cookies or favorite fruit. If you have more than one child participating pick designate one that will receive the special treat. If it is just you and your child then you will be the recipient. Place the treat in the front of the child(ren). Here is a sample conversation using two brothers and a mom:
Mom places a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies down in front of Joey. "Here Joey! I've made us a special treat!"
Joey - "Thanks mom! These are great!"
Adam (reaching for a cookie has the plate moved away)
Mom - "No Adam. Only your brother gets the cookies today because he is wearing red and I like the color red!
Adam - "Mom, that's not fair!"
Mom - "I'm sorry Adam but that is what I decided."
Joey - "Mom, I don't mind sharing with Adam!"
Adam - "Mom I will go put on my red shirt!"
Mom - "No boys, it is my decision. Adam you can't change the color now."
Mom - "Let me tell you both a story."
(The main point of this exercise is to not explain at this point. It will make both boys uncomfortable, but try to shift the focus to the story.)
Read aloud to your child (or put in your own words): It really wasn't that long ago -- as little as 50 years ago people were treated differently in America based solely on the color of their skin. Today, we find it hard to imagine what it must have been like, but just think, back then it was considered "the norm" by many of your grandparents and great grandparents. Our lesson today is not necessarily a pleasant one, but the outcome was positive and the message retained changed history -- ours!
The topic is discrimination and civil rights. To discriminate means to treat differently, a showing of favoritism for some over another. When we talk about civil rights we are referring to the basic rights of all people to be treated the same or "equal."
During the 1950s, growing up in the South was a time when prejudice reigned. People of different colors had certain basic ideas of one another. It caused both emotional and physical divides between people. Many people were sad, others angry. Hate was a common phrase in referring to those of another race or color. This was never clearer than between those whom were classified at that time as being either white or black.
Can you imagine what it was like? Today, we go to the park to play and children of all colors are laughing, running, jumping. There isn't anything in their color that should force them to be separate, but back then the "whites" weren't allowed in the same area as the "blacks". Bathrooms were segregated (kept apart). Today we have one for women, one for men. Color doesn't matter as "everyone" has to "go!" During the '50s, the white women and men had special bathrooms that generally were well maintained. "Colored folk" were stuck going to one placed "out of the way." Water fountains -- separate. Truly, during this time, people of *color* were seen as somehow inferior or not as good as those who were white. That is not a very nice thought now is it? Thankfully today we can see it as was...unfair!
Blacks were also not allowed to attend the same schools as the whites. Often, they weren't allowed to eat at the same restaurants. Even the simplest of acts like riding a bus proved to be an example of segregation. The blacks were not allowed to just hop on a bus, take the first seat available or the one of their choosing. They had to go to the far back of the bus to ride if they were allowed to ride at all.
There was a woman -- a "black" woman, named Rosa Parks that decided that this was not only wrong, an injustice to people of ALL races, but that it was time to stand up for change. She refused to give up her seat on the bus despite knowing she would be put in jail for it. She endured people screaming and yelling, treating her family horribly and even threatening to kill her. All of this because she wouldn't move to the back of the bus. It was through her actions and those of many others that things did eventually change and all those barriers that kept people divided based on color alone were removed.