Just Another Day
How is it that one of the most influential men in American history is commemorated by piles of notes and stacks of textbooks? Growing up, my mom would always take me and my siblings to my grandmother's local library to experience their annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. The girl scouts came and presented artwork; students sang songs; mayors, councilmen and women, and even congressmen and women attended and spoke; and original poetry about equality was recited. Refreshments were laid out on beautiful cloth-coated tables with crisp white tents shielding us from the hot sun. Unfortunately, as my sisters and I got older, we had more and more obligations such as dance rehearsals and homework preventing us from being in attendance of this observance. My mom, however, still made an effort to honor Dr. King's birthday. On the other hand, the community I live in makes virtually every effort to avoid the acknowledgment of this holiday on any and all occasions. At a predominantly white high school, having substantial tests and assignments due the Tuesday after Dr. King's holiday is common. This year, however, is an even more extreme case: finals begin this week. Thus, rather than seeing girls and boys go to the mall and hang out with friends, seeing them post Snapchats condemning their teachers for contriving difficult material while using foul language is almost as common as seeing beach pictures on the last day of school. Is this the majority-white administration's attempt to minimize this occasion? Would there be a different scenario if they were administrating a more diverse group of students? Would there be a different scenario if there were a more diverse group of administrators? Should the blame be placed on the students for ignoring this day or on their parents for allowing them to ignore it? As I ponder upon these questions, I take a look back on my life in elementary school. Teachers were more inclined to educate students on morals and people who changed the course of history for the better that continue to affect our lives. We watched videos the Friday before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day about equality, his life, and discrimination against people of color. We drew what equality looks like to us, read his speeches, and listened to the teacher recite the same picture books on Dr. King's life that we had heard what felt like thousands of times before. Strangely, these discussions disappeared in middle school and high school. I did not even hear his name spoken last week when teachers and students talked about "having the day off." Why is it that the study of morals are no longer talked about in high school? Couldn't one argue that adolescents are actually less moral in high school than any other time of their lives, especially when it comes to racism? You don't see kindergarteners calling their African American peers the n-word as frequently as you would see high school students acting this way. Snapchats between white male high school students joking and threatening to rape their female black peers surface on Buzzfeed more than 11 year-olds' if they even have these conversations. In the age of technology that globalizes intolerance, high schoolers are in the thick of it. And instead of adults preventing this by acknowledging holidays like MLK Day, they choose to be ignorant in this trying time. It is up to us as socially-aware students to speak up and share Dr. King's legacy no matter the circumstances. With this, changes can hopefully be made to bring back the kindergarten-teacher mentality that morals are good and must be taught repeatedly despite how many times one thinks he/she has learned them.