Metro-East Living

It’s important to explain to young people why we have a day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King

Belleville News-Democrat archival headlines MLK assassination

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. Firebombings and riots took place in Southern Illinois.
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Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. Firebombings and riots took place in Southern Illinois.

Q As I was about to take one of my very young grandsons to day-care last week, he was listening to an item on the news about Martin Luther King and the upcoming holiday. We didn’t get to watch it all so when we got in the car, he asked me who this man was and why were we going to have a holiday because of him? To keep it understandable for him, I told him he was a very, very important African-American man who spent his life trying to make sure all African-Americans were treated nicely and fairly just like other people who did not have dark skin.

I related it to the rule at his cay-care — do not bully or make fun of other kids, which I explained meant don’t be unkind or mean to other kids who have a different color skin or may sometimes speak a different language than you. I told him that Martin Luther King, Jr., worked so hard and was so successful that a day was sent aside each year to honor him and remind everyone what he did. I know the subject will probably come up again on Monday since I am babysitting him and a couple other grandchildren, so my question is: Did I say the appropriate thing?

A. Yes, you did a great job answering him using words and examples that he could understand. This same answer will be fine if you are asked the question again on Martin Luther King Day. You might also add that it is a special day set aside to remind us of how we should treat each other fairly and nicely each and every day.


martinlutherkingjr.jpg
Martin Luther King Jr. BND archive



Q. A girlfriend of my daughter’s came by after school the other day and she was wearing a sweater that had a big hole in it on the one arm and in the lower front. My daughter immediately drew my attention to the holes in the sweater and told me that (sweater) was what she wanted for her upcoming birthday. She went on and on about how this (holey sweater) is the latest look. I told her we would talk about it later and we did. She thinks I am a “totally mean parent” because I won’t buy her a sweater like this. I wouldn’t even give a sweater like this to Goodwill or Salvation Army much less pay big bucks for one for her to wear in public. I don’t think it is appropriate to wear something like this to school or anywhere. Am I the crazy one here who “just doesn’t get it?”


A. If it helps, I totally agree with you and do not feel you are crazy at all. I think it is just another tactic by clothes manufacturers to come up with a new look that will increase sales and unfortunately, they are able to create such a “false glamour” and “hip-ness” about it, that it works. I detest seeing jeans with holes in them, and often, many, many holes. I don’t know what has happened to teenagers who want to look nice. As I am sure my mother and father would tell me if I wanted something like this to wear when I was growing up: “If all you had were clothes like this and we made you wear them to school, you would have a fit, so why would you want to even be seen wearing a sweater with holes in it?”


The jeans with all the holes in them were, and are, bad enough, but what is worse about it is that it is not just teens wearing them, it’s people in the 20s, 30s and 40s. So now it is more of “the distressed look” as they refer to it with the holes and rips in sweaters. Unfortunately, your daughter and her girlfriend are not the only ones who yearn to own and wear these sweaters, which by the way, are not Goodwill or Salvation Army cheap.


Somehow we need to get this sloppy look or fad to go away. It does nothing more than perpetuate a disrespectful appearance which often then becomes “an acceptable norm” for some, for years to come. My advice to you, therefore, would be to not “cave in” but to stick to your decision,which is the appropriate decision, and tell your daughter how much better she looks not wearing clothes with holes in them.


And, yes, if other readers would like to send me a comment regarding this subject, please feel free to do so. I will provide a recap of them in a future column.


Dianne Isbell: Dianne.Isbell@gmail.com


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