They are fans of Simon & Garfunkel. They saw them on an old Saturday Night Live. They bought several albums and have been playing them in the car a lot. They dug out an old song book we had and looked up guitar tabs online. If I get up in the middle of the night I will find them playing guitars together much of the time.
One of the songs is called “Freedom Rider”. It’s powerful. But what is it about? I had an inkling it was something to do with the civil rights movement. They looked it up online and read a bit about it, filled me in.
Separate event, my husband told me that he had recently read that it wasn’t just that whites would not allow blacks to eat in their restaurants, but that it was illegal to do so. Even if you wanted to, you weren’t allowed. I’d never heard that in school or in movies. I’d also heard from my MIL that when she had gone to the south in the 60’s she was amazed at how they treated black people. It wasn’t like that in most other areas. Sure there was some natural separation or grouping of like people, but not the legal separation like the south.
Another separate event, I learned in one of my free online law classes that in our system you must be harmed by a law to bring it to court and have it deemed unconstitutional. You can’t just believe it is, hire a lawyer, and bring a case. This goes for any case brought by a citizen. Another time, I had been reading a lot about jury rights and how the jury was created to work by not just judging whether or not you have broken the law but also if the law is just and should be law.
Months later, we watched “The Butler” on DVD. There were college kids sitting in white areas of the restaurant and politely asking to be served. That is against the law. It is an act of civil disobedience. The point (which was not illustrated in the movie or any other public school class I took) is that they would be arrested, a lawyer would take the case and put it to a jury that the law separating blacks and whites was unconstitutional. Even if the restaurant owner wanted to serve them he couldn’t, unless he were willing to break the law and take it to court as well. It’s costly in many ways and the students were under the direction of adults trying to make a point. They knew the risks they were taking and willing to take them to improve things. The “Freedom Riders” were doing something similar and getting the violence on TV news across the country would enlighten people and change hearts, encourage the laws to be changed. Politicians usually want to do what will get them elected and make them not look bad.
So I’m excited about the connections I’ve made and tell the family. We all discuss it to great length. Talk about what could have been done differently, how the federal government got involved, how some of the violence could have been avoided, what the civil war was about, how other countries dealt with slavery, how we did it differently, how black people are perceived in our country as opposed to others, etc. It went on and on. And it still goes on as we learn new things and find new sources.
This is common at our house. We are always finding new things in the most unlikely places and they are vitally important to our understanding of the world we live in. I really don’t think that it would have had the same impact on any of us if I had decided that today we would discuss the civil rights movement in the United States and brought out a government issued book. Or any subject for that matter.