Readers Weigh In on Lessons of MLK Jr.

It's important to teach our kids about their heritage, even if they don't always get it the first time around.


Editor's Note: This blog post by Alicia Yost reflecting on how she teaches her mixed-heritage children about the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work garnered many reader comments. Reader input has moved the conversation from ancestry discoveries to classroom education to deregulation to farm-raised fish, and finally the lobster die-off. We invite you to share your thoughts.


We took the kids to New Haven today for a Martin Luther King Jr. festival. They read children's stories, had live music, an African dance troop and a host of other things.

This comes on the heels of our showing them a King documentary. Giving that many facts to small children is mostly futile because while they act as little sponges and absorb everything, it's usually all jumbled up in a big mess so that when you ask them about segregation, they tell you stories like: "so that's when black people were coming from Africa and had to ride different trains than white people when they went on the underground railroad."


I'm determined to whip out the video camera and record their historical interviews. I'm thinking it will be strikingly similar to watching an episode of drunk history.

Still, it's important for them to know their heritage. They are a mix of Spanish, French, Mexican, Native American, German and African American. In other words, they're a Heinz 57 mixture of blood. All of my husband's family is African American and they have such a wonderful, rich history.

My kids know about their family but still when we pointed out to our little one that she was lucky not to have be born 60 years ago, she was all, "you mean I'm not white!?!"

This reminded me of the time when I asked my mother-in-law if she faced discrimination in the '60s and '70s when she and my late father-in-law were in a scandalous (at the time) marriage. She a fair-skinned, blondhaired, blue-eyed German girl and he is a mix of African and Native American. Were they taunted? How did their families react? Was it difficult?

My mother-in-law has been blind since she was 16 years old and my father-in-law was also blind. In fact, they met at a school for the blind. When I asked her the discrimination question, her eyes got wide and a look of distress came over her face.

I immediately felt bad and said, "I'm sorry. If that brings back memories of hard times, you don't have to tell me." Instead she said, "You mean he was BLACK?"

Man, that woman is a smartass. Man, I love her. But she's right. What does it matter? And curiously, she did point out that because both of them were blind, nobody so much as looked twice at them. Or maybe people did but they had the luxury of not seeing the judgment.

It speaks volumes about the power of discrimination. It's a two-way street that requires someone to put out the hatred and someone to receive it. And since my in-laws never received it, it was therefore non-existent. At least to them.

Read more of Alicia's writing at her blog: www.americasnexttopmommy.blogspot.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Maria Tralongo January 17, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Thank you for a great perspective!
Gene Bartholomew January 17, 2012 at 03:49 PM
History does unfortunately get rewritten by the teller to suit their beliefs. I try to be "blind" to a persons exterior, I've found people are the same all around the world and I have friends on the net from all around the world, lessons that took years. My dad was the quintessential Archie Bunker and we grew up with it, I was in New Haven at my Grandparents on the day of the riots, tensions were high. My grandparents were about the last white people off Winchester Ave area, after an attempted fire in a lower apt while we were there for a holiday they were burned out, luckily some residents did help my grandparents out (my grandfather was in a wheelchair) or they'd be dead. Imagine all of our surprises when we found out in the 1990's that my grandmothers grandfather was the First African American to graduate Yale School of Medicine in 1857, Courtlandt Van Rensselaer Creed. His mother was the first African American school teacher in Ct. Vashti Creed. The are all buried in Grove Street right at the front next to the Amistad people, yet never get any recognition, aren't in any guides of the State or books, Grove St doesn't mention them, in fact if it wasn't for Yale we would never know. Funny thing in relation to your story, my grandmothers father was his son, and her mother was a German immigrant as well.
Alicia Yost January 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Thanks for your comments! The thing that struck me most about celebrating yesterday was that progress is being made. I heard someone singing "We Shall Overcome" and I couldn't help but think that "someday" is within eye shot!
Gene Bartholomew January 17, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Hopefully, We also found out that as WWI broke out my great grandmother had to stop speaking German, they were hated by some just as the Japanese were and now people from the Middle East. Hating someone for something someone else did, or stereotyping is probably one of our last hurdles.
Jim Hartzell January 17, 2012 at 08:44 PM
It's important to learn the history involved in making our nation what it is. Imagine growing up playing "cowboys and indians" and thinking Custer was a "hero". The people who write the history have done us all wrong, so it's up to us to do the real research about our leaders past and present. One thing I have learned in my lifetime and travels is that peoples from around the world all want the same things, the leaders and governments, along with the media shape what goes on. And there is always a radical faction in every group, sad to say. History is a wonderful thing to study, just so we won't forget the lessons it can teach us for the future. I believe there is good hope for then.
Alicia Yost January 17, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I'm such a history geek! In college I took obscene amounts of history courses. I think it's important to know where you've been in order to know where you are going. You know that old quote about the definition of insanity being where you do the same thing over and over and expect different results? Well, knowing our history gives us the opportunity to stop the insanity. Hopefully we learn from the past and apply it to a better future!
Gene Bartholomew January 18, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Jim, funny you mention that, because I was sent to the office for contradicting my history teacher in HS, as we got into the Custer era and slaughter of innocent native Americans it was shining him in this light of grandeur, I countered that he was an egotistical AH and got what he deserved. ; )
Gene Bartholomew January 18, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Alicia, you hit the nail on the head. Thats an Einstein quote. As a Nation, it's important to know where you've been in order to know where you are going. But we do not track it, if you do a historical run from 1980 to now you can clearly see that we have been giving away the farm to large corporations, who now poison our food and water with impunity, because they rewrote the laws that once protected us. I have to laugh at the audacity and sheer ignorance of some to agree with their party about de regulation, when it was regulations that protected us from poisons and saved the Eagle. There is a strange form of discrimination going on, the haves and the have nots, and the actions of the haves are creating more have nots. It amazes me that history clearly shows that Trickle Down does not work and it caused this Depression, and this is a Depression, the official UE numbers are only those who are currently recieving benefits, the other number is 1st Time claimers, see they don't count repeat claims, this has kept the official number at 9%+-. There are many more who are not in the system. The actual number counting all the people who were either self employed, run out of benefits, etc etc, is tough to estimate but when you see number indicating that in some areas young african-americans may have 40% UE the actual total % must be over 20. Inequalities still exist but have been expanded, it is no longer white vs whoever, it's rich verses the rest of us.
Alicia Yost January 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Remember Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"? It changed food regulation in this country forever! We need someone to write something equally monumental in order to call for the kind of reform needed today to keep our food and water safe!
Gene Bartholomew January 18, 2012 at 04:21 PM
We are too ruled by the corporates. What they do is write legislation that allows them to do very nasty, illegal, and immoral things, like adding fillers, or mechanically separating meat. Here's 2 articles that show these and explain why politicians who now in 2012 claim more de regulation is needed are not our friends, they are in fact Enemies of the People. http://www.examiner.com/american-pit-bull-in-national/pet-food-giant-science-diet-receives-fda-warning http://docakilah.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/can-you-guess-what-mcdonald%E2%80%99s-food-item-this-is/
Alicia Yost January 18, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Good grief. There goes any chance that I'll eat for the rest of the day! Sometimes the truth is really hard to stomach!
Gene Bartholomew January 18, 2012 at 05:00 PM
It gets worse. We are told 'farm raised" fish, salmon, seafood is better but its not, its loaded with anti biotics etc, recently a new strain of TB emerged in India that is totally resistant to treatment. The anti biotics in our food are causing a lot of issues. Now our govt is OKing imported meats from places that do not have the rules we have, now imagine what that could mean, I mean our regulations are lame, yet if it is more profitable to raise meat elsewhere and ship it here due to less regulations one has to wonder just what they are doing, because shipping isn't cheap, I think it far out weighs the higher pay US workers, which isn't much in a slaughter house. Well now we know how chicken gets to be round or oval, its not chicken, its Soylent Pink.
Laurie Rich Salerno January 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Really nice piece, Alicia!
Alicia Yost January 19, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Thanks Laurie!
Jim Hartzell January 19, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Gene, you are so right about the farm raised food. I like fish and everyone pushed the sales on talapia. Then I saw a show where the were raising salmon and how the talpia is used to clean up the tanks after the salmon are removed. I'm not eating fish that was fattened up on other fish's droppings and you get the picture.
Gene Bartholomew January 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM
yes I do, when I was a kid in the early 70's I got my CG certificate for boats, I remember learning the charts for LIS, and asking, "what are these circles that say "dumping grounds" and they said that was where the hospital and other waste went from here and NY none of that was investigated when the lobsters died off, not even mentioned in the news Brilliant, it amazes me what supposedly educated people think is a good idea
Alicia Yost January 20, 2012 at 01:25 PM
So, last night I was watching television, minding my own business when a commercial for McDonald's chicken nuggets came on. My body waged a full out mutiny. My mind immediately flashed on the image of oozing, pink goo. I said to my mind: "take a deep breath ,mind...McDonald's says their nuggets are all real, white meat. I promise, it will all be okay." But my mind wasn't having it. It kept interjecting by screaming out words like: "AMMONIA", "EYEBALLS" and "CRUSHED BONES" and before I knew it my stomach was all, "did someone say crushed eyeballs?" and did a somersault. That's when the dry heaves started. Gene, when it comes to that link you posted, I don't know whether to throw my arms around you in gratitude for opening my eyes to such horror or whether to kick you in the shins for bursting my bubble ;)
Gene Bartholomew January 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I'm sorry and you're welcome. 20-30 years ago McD's and BK were probably ok, I remember when the burgers changed composition, it dosn't make sense that their burgers are different than grond beef. I also remember BK changing the Whopper to a burger, it used to be huge, thats when I dropped them, I still crave a BigMac and fries, but, a few years back McD had a lawsuit over their fries by a Vegan group, the reason, it turns out, that you crave their fries is that they drench them in the blood and scum from the meat, essentially like spraying steak juice on them, when they hit the frier that burns off and your mind smells steaks as you drive by, which gets most people to craving.
Alicia Yost January 20, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Oh my goodness! Can I hire you to follow me around all day and tell me stuff like this? I will be bikini-body ready in no time!
Gene Bartholomew January 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM
sure $75hr, don't eat that,don't eat that,don't eat that,don't eat that,don't eat that,


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