Thursday, January 3, 2013

The history

The cold weather makes everyone raw. On edge. A little bit meaner than usual. Or, the optimist in me sees the potential for sharpening one's mental skills when the slag of heat can't trudge through a mind that is burned by the sun and foggy with squinting. Winter truly brings out the sharp corners, at least in this house it does. Lucian reads more and asks more scientific questions. Anna understands the workings of middle school drama and usually (not always) tries to avoid getting caught up in the hormone cyclone that is sixth grade.

I just turn into a bossy bitch. With a bend towards philosophy and nihilism. It's fun for me, scary for my "house mates."

On the way to school this morning, Anna informed me that her grade would be watching a movie in the auditorium tomorrow, and that she would bring a permission slip home today. Her watching the film is contigent upon my signature, naturally. I asked her straight up if it was going to be another Civil Rights film. They watched "Ghosts of Mississippi" last year, so I just needed a head's up as to what kind of turmoil would be visiting our house this year in the form of preteen racial confusion and sadness at the abominable history of the treatment of African-Americans in this country. It may just be a movie to you, but to us, in this house, these films rip open new wounds that take lots of explanation and soothing and "fake-it-'til-you-make-it" optimism provided by yours truly.

I could already feel the tension rising in the truck as we pulled into the parking lot.
"So, um, what's the name of the film," I asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
"I'm not sure, Ma. It'll say it on the permission slip."
"Is it about slavery and/or segregation again this year."
"Most likely."

I wanted that to be the end of the conversation. Keep it light, you know. But I parked the truck and sat there for a moment.

"Mom, we're going to be late," Lucian piped up from the back, his voice muffled by his "face hat" as we call it.

"Ya know what chaps my ass," I started then, and Anna sat back, readying herself for the impromptu litany. "I totally understand that you need to learn history, especially that history," I said. "But I think the curriculum misses the boat a little. That was 50 freakin' years ago. What about TODAY?! The only images you and your classmates have of black folks in America is freakin' slave stories, church bombings, and MLK getting his damn head blown off by some crazy-ass white assassin. Where are the positive representations?! Where are the modern day heroes in all communities who you should be learning about, too? What the hell? Why do you think I throw those damn book orders away the moment you bring them home? All the characters are one color. And if there are black characters, it's because the book is about friggin' slavery."

"Or baseball, don't forget baseball," Lucian said. Apparently, he was listening intently.

"Yeah, and baseball," I said, softening ever so slightly.

"I did notice that about the book orders," Anna nodded. It killed her to agree with me.
"But can I still watch the movie tomorrow?"

"It depends on what it is," I said, thinking 'My god what if they try and show them A Time to Kill or some other equally horrifying film with a simplified, outdated message of hate.

"I will find out today," was Anna's response. We all shivered in silence in the parking lot. Anna cocked her head to one side in a moment of small revelation.

"There's not a lot of positive, modern lessons about women either," she said.

"That is true...maybe it's time you demand an education that goes beyond the Civil War," I said.

"I think that part's gonna be up to you, as usual." She gave me a hug and they jetted off. Brother and sister, who share blood, a home, a family, the same slippers sometimes, but never in the history books will their paths ever cross peacefully. It is a confusing lesson, if it's even a lesson at all.

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