Slavery and Dental Hygiene
Fourth Grade Slavery Lesson
When my 29-year-old was in the 4th grade, the curriculum called for a more in-depth study of American history. There were two African Americans in her class, but she was the only one there the day her class discussed slavery.
Apparently neither I, nor the well meaning, liberal, parents of her classmates had done an adequate job of explaining to our children that aspect of our shared history. The students felt burdened by the information. My daughter’s burden had to do with her being the only direct descendant of American slaves in the room--fourth graders don’t like to stand out, for any reason—and she was worried about her Nana and Poppa being in the clear (The class hadn’t gotten to the Emancipation Proclamation. I can imagine how the children of illegal emigrants must feel.)
Apology but No Reparations
Her classmate’s unease had to do with the unfairness of the whole slavery thing. A few of them even turned to my daughter and apologized to her for it. This only made it worse because 4th graders have a peculiar sense of justice.
Peculiar Sense of Justice
I had seen this justice come into play on my niece’s last visit. She and my daughter, two 4th graders, had been doing their morning grooming when the little girl unintentionally spat a mouthful of toothpaste suds on my daughter’s wrist. My niece apologized sincerely and, unbidden, held her wrist out to my daughter who, without hesitation or any sign of anger; spat her sudsy mouthful on to it. That equalized things for them, and they went happily about their day—cousins and best friends.
Please Don't Let Them Vote
Don’t ask me what this means for us in our current discussion of our American heritage and slavery. The only think I can think of is don’t let 4th graders vote on reparations.