For most of the United States it's Martin Luther King Jr. day today.
Some of my students, those who aren't just reveling in the day off, ask why we still make such a big deal about it. While I take the time to explain to them how he crusaded for equality, and I usually clue them in to other figures in the struggle for equality, like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X, deep inside some part of me is cheering a little.
Before you fire up the lynch mobs, it's not what it sounds like. I'm cheering because in a very important way, he's won. People tend to forget that those born in a world see it as normal, and especially when they're young, don't see how difficult it was for those who came before to make the world they live in. They ask 'why do we celebrate this, isn't this how it's always been?'
There is still prejudice. As long as we have diversity, there will be prejudice. What Martin Luther King gave us was something more subtle, something that paves the way for prejudice to become a marginal thing rather than the center of our lives. What my students don't understand is that prior to King, a vast number of people in the country didn't understand what prejudice meant, didn't really understand why it was wrong, or even that it was wrong. My students today, even the ones that are blatantly prejudiced against others from even a slightly different ethnic background, know in their bones that prejudice is wrong, even when they don't quite realize they're doing it. When you point it out, they're ashamed of themselves.
The foundation has been poured and set. Ours is the struggle of keeping the weeds from overgrowing it, our children's to build something meaningful on it, and their children's to celebrate that success, but the foundation is there, and before King it wasn't. So that's why I cheer when young people don't understand what King did; he laid something so deep it's a 'forever been this way' part of their world. It will take generations for the final score to be tallied, but at this point, he's won.
That said, equality and celebration of diversity weren't King's only message. I saw a quote today that summed up what might be a longer lasting legacy, because if we ever get to a point where people really do rejoice in all diversity, we'll all still need each other. I leave you with that quote and the question: what do YOU do for others?
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?" - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, January 21, 2013
MLK Day Thoughts
I'm a storyteller, a father, a husband, and a master of many trades. Of dubious quality in all of the above. The photo is not of me; it's art I bought at a convention, I subsequently commisioned the remaining pair of the trio. Lest it be misunderstood, the byline is from a long time friend who made the following comment: "Once in a while you've got to get into Bob's Head. After which you must get back out as fast as humanly possible." He stands by that assessment to this day. Then again, in answer to the question "which is more dangerous, an assault rifle or a hamster?", he answered "Depends, does Bob have the hamster?". Much later in life, a friend from college was doing impromptu Tarot readings, and before each one was choosing what card most accurately represented each person in the room. On being asked what card repped me, he replied "the six of spades". On seeing the inhabitants of the room go into thought trying to figure out what card that might equate to in the Tarot he said "No, don't convert it. In the great Tarot game of life, Bob is playing poker." I don't know WHY people say these things. They just do.