Captain’s Log. Daddy Chronicles. Diaper Date 1586. So today was MLK Day. I am old enough to remember when it was not recognized as a national holiday (It was originally a “teacher work day” at my elementary school. Mom wrote a letter. It became a holiday.) I am old enough to have a parent who integrated a school. I am old enough to have experienced the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry first hand. I remember being called “boy” (which doesn’t seem like an insult until it is shouted in your face or accompanied with spit or an attempt to trip/push you don a flight of stairs), chocolate, and another name that I dare not dignify with print. I have been spat at, assaulted, had rocks thrown at my car, and a number of other experiences. My experiences aren’t unique or the extreme, but it is part of my history – how I grew out of innocence.
I don’t remember the year I recognized race. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and attended predominantly white schools. It wasn’t for a lack of knowing who I was/am or where I came from – I was raised to embrace all people. That’s not to say that I always did, but there is a difference between the normal childish/adolescent/teenage ignorance and the ignorance that is passed down from generation to generation.
I am also old enough to know that people change and times change. One of those kids that harassed me from grade 1 through 7? He apologized his last day of school. He realized I wasn’t who he thought. He recognized that his behavior wasn’t who he was.
For every despicable act of ignorance, there were at least three acts of kindness or compassion.
The eldest asked why we didn’t have work/school today. Not gonna lie. I chickened out. She’s four. She’s still innocent. She doesn’t like mean people in movies – she doesn’t need to know the depth of cruelty that real people can have. I explained simply that Dr. King was a man who spoke to lots of people about how important it is to treat each other well. To play nice with others. To be nice to others. I explained that he went on things called marches, which I described as a parade but with a serious message, to spread the word to as many people as possible.
She didn’t ask any further questions, but I know one day she will.
One day I will share the stories, the history (both good and bad), but I feel like these stories have a happy ending – hope.
MLK Day has always been more than a celebration of one man, which I think Dr. King would want it that way, it has been a day of reflection. Reflection on the progress we have made and the progress we still need to make.
Personally, I am thankfully for the positive people in my life and I hope that my kids not only continue to have those type of people in their life, but become positive influences themselves for others. That is how we can keep the dream alive.
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