Sunday, January 18, 2004

Helping children see similarities



By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Chris Flanagan teaches fifth grade at Whitaker Elementary School in Finneytown.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Growing up blind to skin color was easy for Chris Flanagan, a fifth-grade teacher at Finneytown's Whitaker Elementary School.

In Vermont, his home state, nearly everyone looked like him.

Only one in every 200 people in Vermont is black. Flanagan, 31, can barely remember meeting anyone who was not white, except one African-American boy on his Little League team.

Flanagan was a 20-year-old college student when he learned the harsh realities of racism and left school to work at a day-care center for African-American children in Selma, Ala.

"I had never encountered the kind of blatant racism I saw in the South," Flanagan said.

Today, though, he looks across his classroom and sees children of all races, children who live in comfortable middle-class homes, and children who live in government-subsidized housing.

It is exactly where he wants to be.

"I came here for a reason," Flanagan said. "I came here because it is a diverse school district, a place where I can help kids from different backgrounds see how much they have in common. It is the kind of place where I want my own 2-year-old son to go to school someday.

"Racism is a learned thing," Flanagan said. "We have an opportunity with these kids. They don't have to learn to hate. They play ball together. They perform in the school band together. They learn to live with each other. That's what Dr. King was talking about."




REMEMBERING DR. KING
New generation carries on ideals
Molding winners on court, in life
Martin Luther King Jr. Day events
Helping children see similarities
Doctor cares on the job, beyond
History is personal at Freedom Center
Once arm in arm with King, he's still carrying the torch

TOP STORIES
Church begins fire recovery
City pays for mop-up
Festival celebrates African culture

IN THE TRISTATE
Districts pool tech resources
Herring calls his school home
Teens off to nation's capital for march
City heeds residents' requests for lights
UC law grad oversees war trials
Public safety briefs
Sap-happy workers tap trees
Union Centre plan changes
Wellness center offers wealth of senior services
News Briefs
Neighbors briefs

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Bronson: This 'N word' may not be the one some think
Radel: High school band leaders gave a generation self-respect
Good Things Happening

LIVES REMEMBERED
Sr. Magdalena Linnemann, 93, hospital worker
Morton Woodward, P&G retiree

KENTUCKY STORIES
Clooney's name recognition opens doors for campaign
Thayer will leave state No. 2 GOP post