Just as Thursdays have a new meaning for me since I’ve begun this website, now Mondays do too. And I can’t think of a better day to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This morning at breakfast, my husband and I were talking to our children about this holiday and what it means. I spoke with hesitancy, my mind spinning. “They’re so little. What do I want them to know? Do I even want to introduce these thoughts into their brains? At this age, they are colorblind. They don’t care if their friends have white skin or brown skin. Racism, hate crimes, prejudice … it is all so far from their innocent minds. Why even bring it up?”
But this is what I realized: my children do not live in a bubble. Sooner or later, they are going to be exposed to the ugliness that is racism. And I would much rather them hear these things from me, in the safety of our home and the comfort of our kitchen table, than whispered on a playground or in a hallway at school, or even taught in a classroom. So I opened my mouth.
I taught my children, very simply, about slavery. I taught them about abolition. I taught them about parts of my nation’s past that makes me want to weep.
And then I taught them about a hero.
I taught them about Martin Luther King, Jr.
I taught them about his dream.
“And do you guys know what? I think if he were to look into your schools …” I paused, choked up. “I think if he looked into your classrooms, he would be so, so happy. He would love to see kids with different colors of skin, all playing together. He would be so happy to know that we understand that it doesn’t matter one tiny bit what color someone’s skin is. He would be happy that we think it’s silly that someone wouldn’t play with someone else just because of how they looked.”
My children – they’re living Doctor King’s dream.
Has his dream come true all over America? And all over the world? No, it hasn’t. But frankly, that’s not where I want to focus. Today, I celebrate the fact that my children, ages 6 and 4, are completely baffled by the idea that someone’s skin color makes them “better” or “worse” than someone else. That they think white skin is pretty and brown skin is pretty. That their pictures from school show them with their arms around other children who look nothing like them, color-wise … but who are, underneath that tiny layer of skin, exactly like them.
A few years ago, I was checking out at the grocery store on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I was chatting with my cashier, a friendly young black man, and asked him how his day was going. He looked at me with his eyes full of joy.
“It’s Martin Luther King Day. How can I be anything but happy?”
His words went straight to my heart. I hope I never forget them.
Today, let’s follow the example of this young man. Let’s look at the innocence of my children. Let’s try a little harder to live Doctor King’s dream. Let’s teach love. Let’s teach compassion.
And let’s live what we teach.
If it’s been a while since you’ve heard this speech in its entirety, I encourage you to listen to it today. It’s long, yes. But these are words that need to be remembered.