Harvey Milk’s story captivates 2nd graders during Civil Rights lesson
Amelia is a blogger at Huffington Post, and writes about her life as the mother of an 8 year old gay son. Recently, his class studied Civil Rights, with each child picking a figure about which to do a report. Since the teacher knows she has a gay child in her second grade class, she included Harvey Milk in the list of names the children could choose from. Amelia’s son, of his own accord, chose Milk. His story, one of discovery and disbelief at how different the world was in the time of Milk’s life, is eye opening. This story demonstrates how the world of youth is changing, and how even small children can recognize both truth and injustice.
Part of the presentation included the story of the assassination of Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, and the trial of Dan White, the killer. The children did not understand why White was not punished more severely than he was, and in an interesting tidbit, didn’t know what a Twinkie was. (relating to the “twinkie defense” of diminished mental capacity of White at the time of the killings).
Things are not perfect. There are still lies, myths and distortions to fight, but the battleground has changed. Thirty-four years ago 12 jurors swallowed the Twinkie defense and let a murderer off with a slap on the wrist, and today 20 second graders saw right through it.
Harvey Milk urged people to come out of the closet, saying it was the only effective way to fight the lies and distortions of homophobes. It was a bit difficult for Amelia to explain to her out and proud 8 year old son the idea of a closet in the context of sexual orientation. It’s a foreign concept to him. And his classmates.
Read Amelia’s blog here.