I saw the movie SELMA this weekend. I was moved beyond words. I realized how much I didn't know about those years of violence and discrimination. I must have gotten the broad strokes of the civil rights movement, because as a teacher in training in college I always chose to do my student teaching and community work in urban areas, understanding there was important work to be done. But I only grasped a hint of what was really happening outside my home town of Newton Ma; a white, middle-upper class community. When I was 14, the civil rights movement was in full swing. I just didn't know about it. My parents read the newspaper and watched the evening news and I am sure they spent many hours talking about it, but as a teen, I was uninterested. My breaking news was who was dating who, what was up for the weekend, and breaking down the minutia of daily teenage life. The civil rights movement made it's way passively into my consciousness
As I moved out of the theater amongst the crowd of mostly middle aged people, I saw a family of five; parents with their teenage children, engrossed in an intense discussion about the movie. I imagined them moving on to dinner continuing this conversation with each other.
Teens are self-centered, temporarily narcissistic, and mostly unaware of the larger culture. I know I was. Most are not reading the New York Times online, or watching the evening news. But what a gift you could give them by taking them to see SELMA. Teach them to see a larger world, helping them to connect the dots to their own life. Make this a family affair, an event for all of you. Listen to their shock, their fear, their dismay this kind of discrimination happened, and of course is still happening. They won't choose to see this on their own. At 14 I know I wouldn't have. They might go kicking and screaming, but they will thank you on the way out.