Your kids will always call your bullshit.
We’re in Memphis this spring break, mostly to see how much barbecue we can consume — a challenge that takes on new meaning with a 19-year-old college swimmer. Between Memphis-style pulled-pork sandwiches (cole slaw on top) and racks of ribs, we went to the National Civil Rights Museum.
My 16-year-old son had been here before on a Civil Rights bus trip he took with our church. So he was making a gentle play to get out of it. I told him he was older now and times were different — that since November 8, we were having to fight for things we never thought we’d have to fight for before.
With the disdain only a 16-year-old can muster, he argued he was pretty sure we’d never have to fight against slavery or Jim Crow laws again. I reminded him I never thought we’d be fighting for legal abortion either.
But still, his point was a good one. We are not selling human beings in 2017 (at least not in public).
Little in the museum was new to me, but — as photos and video and stories tend to do — it baffled and riled me. “In. What. World,” I said as we got back in the car, “was any of that OK?” This is an incredibly shameful part of our U.S. history. I don’t need to draw the parallels of our current situation to this crowd.
Yet my kids pointed out that our outrage must be proportional to the injustice. Agreed.
I left the museum and discussion with my kids with three words we must always keep in mind:
- Perspective. No, this is not 1840 or 1960. We have come a long way toward human rights in our country. We should not belittle those battles with our current one.
- Perseverance. But we also have our own battles to fight. I was surprised — and shared with my children — that many on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement were their age. Some were younger. Those students sitting at the counter? Teenagers. I had no idea.
- Progress. We must always push forward. Just because our past is a bigger shitshow than our present doesn’t mean we need to stay here. Keep fighting, friends. Keep talking about the fight to your kids. Because the conditions that lead us to march are not going away without this fight.
And if my kids think these changes can be made without their help, I will have to call their bullshit.