"Shalika," the teacher tells me afterward, " will go to college."
"Why is it this way?" ask Shalika in a softer voice again. But she doesn't ask the question as if she is waiting for an answer.
"Is it 'separate but equal' then?" I ask. "Have we gone back a hundred years?"
"It is separate. That's for sure," the teacher says. She is a short and stocky middle-aged black woman. "Would you want to tell the children it is equal?"
Christopher approaches me at the end of class. The room is too hot. His skin looks warm and his black hair is damp. "Write this down. You asked a question about Martin Luther King. I'm going to say something. All that stuff about 'the dream' means nothing to the kids I know in East St. Louis. So far as they're concerned, he died in vain. He was famous and he lived and gave his speeches and he died and now he's gone. But we're still here. Don't tell students in this school about 'the dream.' Go and look into the toilet here if you…