Monday, January 16, 2012

Thank you, Dr. King.

While yesterday was the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many of us are home today in observance of the national holiday.  I am forever grateful for what Dr. King and other Civil Rights activists have done for America, but since becoming a parent, I am even more thankful.

Of course I looked for a kid-friendly event in the city to take M to.  The Civil Rights Institute has free admission all day today, but I think we'll hold off on going back there.  We never made it through the whole thing last time.  Maybe next year. :-)
I bought this book for M last year around this time, and it's one that we've read numerous times since then (it's a board book -- perfect for a toddler).  She doesn't know the extent of Dr. King's importance in America's history, but she knows small things about him.  She has plenty of time to learn more.

Coincidentally, the last few books I've read (for myself) have been based back when times were different -- when blacks and whites didn't mix.  And though history hasn't been the focus of these books, naturally I can't help but feel a certain way about the way of life back then.  After reading a couple of Mary Monroe's books that were based in the mid-1900s, I suddenly had the desire to read The Help.  I was never interested in reading (or going to see) The Help. But it's what my head's buried in now.  I guess I'm about halfway through.

While it's obvious that there's quite a bit in the book that makes me wonder why, how, etc., one section of the book just really stood out to me -- the death of Medgar Evers.  Not just the death itself -- I guess I've always known he was murdered as a result of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement -- but I had no clue that Medgar Evers was killed on his front lawn.  And that his children were there.  And they saw their daddy after he'd been shot in the back.  HIS CHILDREN.

And while I know the main characters in the book are fictional (maybe loosely based on real people), their reaction to it all -- hiding in their homes, being afraid to walk the streets, fear of speaking up, etc. just makes me think about how hard it was to be a parent back then. It must have been a challenge to raise your children to be proud of who they were when they were constantly treated like they were "less than" (and they had to watch their parents being treated the same way).  And if you did have a child who was extremely proud and fearless, you'd have to worry about them being hurt or killed for these very reasons.  How did they do it?  People say raising children was much easier back then, but I'm not so sure that's true.

Since becoming a parent, I see things a lot differently.  More clearly.  And in this case, I'm more grateful.  I am thankful that I don't have to give my daughter some silly reason as to why she can't use a certain little girls' room.  Or that I don't have to explain to my future son that he should never look a white woman in the eye and offer her a kind smile.  The Miss America pageant was this past weekend.  I was reading up on a little history of the pageant and learned that one of the early requirements to be a participant in the pageant is that you had to be a white woman.  I wasn't surprised, but it certainly reminds me how times have changed.

So today more than ever, I am so grateful for what Dr. King and others have done to mold our nation into a better place for all.  A nation where my daughter can be the person SHE wants to be, and not worry about her race keeping her from eating in a restaurant, using a public restroom, being Miss America, or even being the President of the United States.  She can do WHATEVER IT IS she wants to do.  So simple today, yet it was so hard yesterday.

So Dr. King, I thank you. Thank you for your persistent effort to make this nation a better place for all.  Thank you for avoiding violence in a nation so full of violence.  Thank you for not quitting.  Your dream, Dr. King, has become our reality.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

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