Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin

I believe that I read once that Martin Luther King, Jr. was born with the true first name of Michael, but later changed it.  (That's one of those things that interests me in life -- popularly held beliefs that aren't quite true, like discovering that "Silent Cal" Coolidge loved to talk.)

Dr. King's legacy is mighty and extraordinary; to touch on a tiny aspect of it still brings you to matters of great significance.

Desegregation, for one.

I was part of desegregating busing in Prince George's County, Maryland, bringing me, and later my brother, from our hometown of Greenbelt to John Carroll Elementary School in Landover for kindergarten and first grade.  (We would later go to Glenarden Woods E.S. from second grade through sixth grade.)

This might seem overly simplistic, but so be it:  When you're a kid, skin color is only a difference of curiosity, like hair color or eye color or voice.  You're different from the kids around you and you realize it, but other than the question of "Why?" it doesn't have any bearing on your life.  Some kids are nice and some are mean, some are quiet and some are loud, and as a kid you know that skin color has nothing to do with it.

When you're a kid, you are judged entirely on the content of your character.  That is, at its purest, are you great fun to be around?  Skin color doesn't enter into it.  Neither does religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class.  (Height, weight, athletic coordination, and cuteness don't enter into it, either, at least not until you get older.  Then, unfortunately, those get pretty important.)

And so I went through my school years in a mesh of wonderful diversity, but it was not hammered into us that we were sitting in multiethnic, multiracial classes.  We took it entirely for granted that our classmates came in all shades of skin tone.

My childhood was spent in that storybook post-racial society.  As an adult, I recognize that this does not exist elsewhere.  The more I travel, the more I witness racism, as well as sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

You know what, though?

I have no need yet for a true post-racial adult society.  I frankly welcome the conversations brought about by race.

I am no longer a child; I am a mature adult.  I can handle it.

Let us remember who Dr. King was and what he strived for, whether in the arena of civil rights or socioeconomic inequality, and keep moving forward.  I'll speak rationally about my perspective and listen to positions sculpted by alternate perspectives.

Then, while our children play together blissfully, we can work together to help uplift society around us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good article-right on the money