Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For my children, this is simply a day off of school and the chance to sleep in. No different and no more vague than Memorial Day, Winter Break and President’s Day.
It’s a day where teachers tell you about Martin Luther King, Jr., while you sit in a room with kids of different backgrounds, different religions, where the color of your skin is meaningless. Hell, you may even be sitting in a school named after the man. In a 2nd grader’s-mind, only heroes have schools named after them.
It’s also a day to many young students where they are first exposed to race and skin color as something more than a way to describe a friend or family member. This is true because of all that King Jr., his supporters, and even my parents did in the 60s to stand up for equality.
Think about it! In my child’s eyes, her parents are white (or in my case, half-white and half-brown), her Grandpa is brown, her best friends are a rainbow of colors – white, brown, black, blond, brunette and red-head. Living in a diverse community, she’s learned about Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. It’s all cool, and her friends are her friends, no matter what. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Last week, elementary school teachers everywhere taught their students a bit about Martin Luther King. It’s tradition. My 2nd-grader worked on the worksheet shown above.
In all the complexity of what he marched for almost 60 years ago, what the millions of others who stood with him protested, it boils down to a few simple and yet incredibly easy to understand ideas. Today, as you enjoy the day off, consider how you can be just a little more like Martin Luther King, Jr. in your day-to-day life.
- Be Brave
- Fight for equality
- Do what’s right for those around you, not just what’s right for you
Don’t let hate and fear hold you back. Stand together and stand proud because our differences are what make us stronger and better.
But, I also want to acknowledge that my children’s experience is different from some of their friends. To be blunt, this is in part because they look white, even though they are 25% Mexican-American. I have grown up seeing both sides and I know that our country hasn’t magically erased racism or the inherent biases that go with it. Though it is wrong, my child will have a slightly different path, and very likely an easier path to walk then some of her friends who are African American, Asian, Muslim, or Hispanic.
Because our country still has work to do, I will try to live the great man’s own words, and I will teach my children today and everyday to try and be a light in this world, not darkness. And know that love can drive out hate.