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By the Content of Their Character

The most poignant moment of my career actually happened my very first year of teaching. I will never forget it.  I still tear up when I think about it.

It was 2nd grade.  We were reading a story from our reader about Jackie Robinson.  He was, as we all know, the first African American to play baseball in the major leagues.  He faced discrimination because of his skin color, but he persevered, and was named Rookie of the Year, among other successes during his career.

When we came to the part about being judged by his skin color, my students laughed.

At first, I didn’t understand why.

They laughed because it sounded so absurd to them to judge someone by their skin color.  What does skin color have to do with anything? they wanted to know.

I was so touched by their innocence.  But it was more than just innocence.  They didn’t know it, but they had wisdom.

Skin color doesn’t have anything to do with your character.  It has nothing to do with whether you are smart, reliable, capable, responsible, motivated, or a million other character traits.  It has nothing to do with whether you can be a good student or a good friend.

My kids understood all that at the age of 7.

I hope they still do.

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