Looking Back…

Today I was remembering an exchange I had with my students in June, during Pride Month. I shared a video with my homeroom class which told the story of the Stonewall Riots which occurred in NYC in 1969. Afterwards, I commented that I did not know this story. I honestly admitted that I am learning this with them.
“Really? How come?” a 6th grader asked innocently.

“How come?” I wonder.
Maybe because in 1969, I was 5 years old.
I lived on Primrose Drive in Falls Church, VA.
I wore my grey plaid jumper each school day to attend St. James, the local Catholic school.
I played in the little log cabiin playhouse my paretns purchased from the Sears catalog.
I swung on the backyard swingset.
I swam every day at High Point Pool in the summer.
I was a kid, enjoying my childhood.
I was friends with D who than was my swimteam buddy.
I see now on facebook D is married to a woman.
I wonder now if she was ever treated unfairly because of who she chose to love.
Back then, people being treated unfairly in NYC didn’t enter my world.

Maybe it is the same for my parent’s generation. As I learn about the Civil Rights Movement now, I wonder about my mom. She grew up in Washington, DC. She wore a uniform to her Catholic school. She attended dances at Glen Echo and went to the movies at the Tivoli Theater. When I asked if she attended the March on Washington, she said no. “I had babies to care for at that time. All my attention went to them. I guess I saw the clips of it on the news.” This summer, my mom and I took a road trip to Greensboro. While there, we toured the Woolworths, the site of the first civil rights movement sit-in and is now the International CIvil Rights Center and Museum. For my mom, it was brought back memories of her time as a high schooler, sitting at the counter and eating anything on the menu. “This is just how it looked. You used to stand behind a counter seat and when the person sitting finished, you took their spot.” I wondered if she was aware this was a priviledge for her, a white woman in DC? It seemed that people being treated unfairly in the south in didn’t enter her world.

Maybe in the present, we can’t fully understand.
Maybe in the present, we can be ignorant or have blinders on.
Maybe in the present, we are are too busy living our own life.

Recently, I have been thinking about the history of the marginalized as I continue to read Clint Smith’s book, How the Word is Passed (I blogged about it here). It is through stories, oral and written down, that the “word is passed down”. I do believe, as we know more of the past, we can do better in the present. Looking ahead, I plan to add these three books to my classroom. Maybe in the past, I was unaware but going forward, I will do better. As Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

7 thoughts on “Looking Back…

  1. Terje says:

    I think in the past some of the issue was that all information presented was selected, and many things were not said, and now the issue is that there is too much of noise and opinions around serious topics. Maya Angelou’s quote is good. We just have to keep learning, being open to new knowledge and diverse perspectives, examining our biases, and critically evaluate what is presented to us and how our own thinking develops.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Denise Krebs says:

    Sally, thank you for this thoughtful post. I’ve learned some things about the Stonewall Riots today. I watched a couple of videos. I love your reflections about when you were a child and wondering, and then having empathy about how your mother responded. Well-written and I love the challenge you have taken for yourself to stock your library. It’s a challenge for all of us teachers who read it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. edifiedlistener says:

    Recalling your childhood in those crisp sentences gets at the core of how we live our lives mostly. We are always living through history but it’s often hard to recognize at the time, particularly if we don’t feel the adverse effects directly. Venturing into history with our eyes open can be extremely sobering. I’m finding that to be true. Thank you for your reflection here and making the connections with the past and present and loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. margaretsmn says:

    I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. When I was a little girl, Emmitt Till was lynched. Fannie Lou Hamer was being beaten for registering to vote. And Medgar Evans was murdered. I knew none of this. I was not all that rich, but I lived in North Jackson with other white middle class. I went to public schools and remember when the schools were integrated. I was in 4th grade. My oblivion is no excuse. My parents knew, but they protected us. It’s important for me to put into context my past so that I can move forward. Thanks for stimulating my thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

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