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Martin Luther King’s dream in the American schools!

There is a growing interest of African-American students in learning Italian during the past years and, from my experience as a teacher, I can say that this is true and some of my better students are among them

Martin Luther King is a world icon of civil rights and he fought to break racial barriers against African Americans and minorities in the U.S. and worldwide. He contributed to American and Global Society by pointing out the evils of slavery for both blacks and poor whites who worked at subsistence wages.   Dr. King lived in the State of Mississippi during a time when it was typical for people to go to school, take a bus, enter into a bar, a theater, or a church and to see separate places according to the color of people's skin. Idealists like Martin Luther King are a source of inspiration worldwide for great social change and justice in today’s society.

Martin Luther King dreamed of living in a nation where there would be equity and social justice for all, and where everyone would have access to fair and equal treatment under the law regardless of race, social class or gender. MLK’s speeches and ideologies are deeply rooted in everyone’s American dream. One of the most emotional part of his famous speech is when he says, he dreams of a day when his children would not to be judged by the color of their skin: 

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” 

He dreamed about a world where children of slaves and former masters could sit together at the table within the State of Mississippi.                                                                    

Today his dream has become a reality in the Italian classes because the number of African-American students who choose to study Italian language in secondary schools is increasing yearly; these students are very motivated to learn both the language and the Italian culture.  I can say from my experience as an Italian teacher that some of my better students are African-American, and I have to admit that often they have a better pronunciation of words in comparison to the other students in the class, but I cannot explain why.  If we think back ten years ago, it was rare for African-American students to study Italian and seldom teachers saw them in an Italian class. Today, in contrast, the number of African-American students who choose to study Italian is increasing and they are stimulated by the curiosity to learn the Italian language and culture.

During the past fifty years teachers and administrators have helped to reduce the problem of discrimination in the U.S. It has been the relationship between students and teachers over generations that made possible the progress we are seeing today. Today we have a two term black president for the first time in U.S. history. President Obama doesn’t have a family history of ancestors who were former slaves, while the first lady Michelle Obama, on the other hand, has ancestors that were formerly slaves.     

The fight against racial barriers and social inequality is attributable to people like MLK who were involved in the fight for civil rights, equality and justice for all. Since the day of Martin Luther King’s speech "I Have a Dream" half a century has passed and much has changed in the U.S. and in the world. African Americans have emancipated themselves over the years and many are now dedicated to public education. Many are great principals and vice principals who know how to handle very well the pedagogy as well as the teaching and discipline in school. Fifty years ago all this was only a dream. The U.S. has made great progress in areas of civil rights and equality for minorities; but, we have not achieved our ultimate goal because the controversy and discrimination still existed in today’s society, even if it appears less so in politics and fine speeches. In fact, according to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, in some states of the U.S. students of color and without learning disabilities are suspended or expelled three times more than their white peers . These data come from an analysis of federal data obtained by the Center for Civil Rights, compiled at the University of California.

What kind of values ÔÇï can Martin Luther King’s dream teach to today’s Italians?

Italy, from a country of emigration, has become a country of immigration, and therefore, a multi-ethnic society characterized by the coexistence, with more or less integration, of people of different ethnicities. In Italy the diversity of ethnic groups is a new phenomenon and the problems of civil rights and equality of minorities are much more severe than those experienced by today’s Americans. Discrimination in Italy has deep roots, and it has been not limited to the color of the skin. The history is long and sometimes very shameful because of Mussolini’s Racial Laws in 1938.

Today, many Italians who consider themselves "educated" turn out to be racist for several reasons. The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. can teach a lot to Italians about civil rights, integration, and equality of minorities and the dismasting of racial barriers. Although the times and the situations are different, the underlying causes of the controversy over racial barriers and discrimination are still the same. Therefore, MLK’s message resonates well today and the values ÔÇïÔÇïthat MLK taught to American’s people can also be learned by the Italian people.


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