Wednesday, February 27, 2008

jack roosevelt robinson

and your starting shortstop, from UCLA, number 42...JACKIE ROOOOOOOOBINSONNNNNNN!

starring this week in our study of famous americans is the man, the myth, the legend. at first glance, you might think, "why are you learning about a baseball player? so what if it's black history month! he's still only a mere athlete..." and so on. there's a lot more to be drawn from branch rickey's "experiment" than meets the eye.

robinson has a lot in common with a more famous civil rights leader by the name of martin luther king, jr. both are from georgia. both enjoyed, if not excelled in sports at a young age. both were subject to vile hatred by people that they'd never met, even death threats. earlier today though, i myself was questioning his inclusion in our study of famous americans. i screened a supplemental video on youtube, then selectively showed it to the class.

as we paused and discussed during the clip, one of my students was visibly moved by it. afterwards, this shy boy came up to me and explained why. he was able to transport himself into robinson's cleats by virtue of his treatment as a muslim in a christian country. he knew how it felt to be judged by his appearance by people who didn't know him at all. instantly, it made sense. on the higher order, seemingly simple topics such as these can make quite an impact. i'm simultaneously proud and saddened by this bright eight year-old making that connection. on one hand, i know this is a cruel world, and sugarcoating life for children only makes that adjustment harder when they grow up. on the other, what the hell is wrong with our country that he's been robbed of the innocence of his youth by knowing this harsh reality already?

we've come a long way since abe, susan, jackie, and martin, but we still have a long way to go...

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