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He mattered: Why I will celebrate the legacy of MLK even if you don’t

Recently, during a Creston Community School Board meeting, I listened as two social studies teachers described how history and social studies curriculums have changed with the new Iowa Core standards.

In this presentation, one instructor said there is less focus on memorization of names and dates of wars and historical events, but more effort is spent helping students understand the impact these events have had on modern times. (I really love this approach, BTW.)

Since my arrival to Iowa, I have always been curious as to why Martin Luther King Jr. was important enough to have a Federal holiday commemorating his accomplishments, yet public schools in the Creston Community School District fail to study and celebrate him in the way I remember doing so in my formative years.

At one point, I contacted my son’s teacher asking if they study MLK at all. Her response, “No, because it’s not in the curriculum.”

On a handful of occasions, I’ve been asked by members of this community, why I care because I’m “not black.” This kind of statement laminates the exact reason why the impact and achievements of MLK and other civil rights leaders, and social movements should be taught.

Yesterday I spoke with a school official and personally inquired. The response I received is that the decision has to do with the “culture” of the community.

This “culture” has been something I have noticed from the moment I arrived here six years ago. I’ve called out racism or injustice when and where I see it, and despite its repercussions, I will continue to do so. What I won’t do is argue the existence of racism upon deaf ears and point it out to blind eyes.

Some people have gone so far to say, “You just live in a more conservative community.” I don’t buy it. Racism and conservatism is not mutually exclusive. Racism and biases are passed down through generations and when education fails.

I get it – “Black history” just doesn’t resonate with everyone. But, in my opinion, it’s not Black history – it’s American history. And here’s why Martin Luther King Jr. matters:

In terms of “civil rights,” the resulting impact of MLK’s efforts have inspired other social movements by other groups – all of which have lead to great change in the laws of the land and societal values.

As citizens continue to fight for things that matter to them relating to freedom of conscience, religion, expression, security, liberty, speech, privacy and equal treatment under the law, it’s important to remember the myriad of struggles and experiences that have shaped our past trajectory and allow it to shape our future course.


Contact the writer:

Twitter: @cnasarah


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