The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and My Anja

Anja-perfect headshotMonday, January 19, 2015

Today I am grateful for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.  Without the work he did desegregating our country, I might never have my gorgeous, smart, wonderful granddaughter, Anja.

Without his teachings, I might never have taught my children that while color exists and is a huge part of a person, it alone does not define them. . . they are defined by “. . .the content of their character”.  My son might never have married Anja’s mother.  She might never have been born.  What a huge void that would be.  Thank you Dr. King.

Without Dr. King’s work my granddaughter’s mom and her new husband, and my son and his soon to be new wife would not feel comfortable joining in not only the raising of my granddaughter, but also the special events in her life.  They all love her.  They are all there for her.  All of them.  All the time.  Nobody’s skin even comes into play.

And without Dr. King, my granddaughter might not be able to become a valuable, necessary member of adult society.  She might not be able to go to college, or find a job, or follow her dreams, or live wherever she wants in whatever way she wants.

If Dr. King and the brave, life-changing group of hero’s who joined him, had not marched in Selma, Alabama, then my granddaughter might never know what it is like to walk into a voting pole and mark the ballot, pull the lever, or punch out the chad for the person of her choice.  It saddens me to my core that so few people take this privilege. . .this responsibility, so lightly that they can’t be bothered to actually vote.  Why?  When those before you have died for this right. . .why can’t get out of your recliner for one or two days a year?  Really?  I want my granddaughter to vote.

Dr. King’s movement teaches people to “give back” and I agree.  But the giving back doesn’t have to be planned or grandiose or even public.  A simple change in thinking is a start.  A kind word to a stranger; lending hand to someone too short to reach an item in a grocery store; finding your “voice” when you hear a racial slur, are all good beginnings.  I trust you will know them when they pop up.  You will.  Because you know what’s right deep down, just like I do, just like the idiot who cut you off in traffic does. . .if we’ll all just step back, take a breath and listen to our guts, we know.

When my mother, who is a kind woman, but was raised in an era based on fear and misunderstanding, came to visit she made a statement I will never forget.  We were driving home from a lovely day spent on the deck of my son’s house.  The local grandkids were all there. . .a slick-straight-haired blond, a spikey-topped-almost-redhead, and a nappy-pulled-tight dark browner.  My mom said, “Do you think Anja feels awkward?”  I had no clue what my mom was talking about.  If you knew Anja, you would know that “awkward” isn’t even in her wheelhouse!  “Why, mom?” I asked.  “What do you mean?”  She said, “Well, you know we’re all white and she’s not.”  I almost drove off the road. Wow.

Later I posed the question to my granddaughter in the same way my mom had posed it to me.  She looked at me like I had rocks in my head.  Then she started laughing!  “Are you kidding me?  We’re all a family!  I have all colors in both sides of my family.  Just depends on who is there at any given time.”  This experience opened up a great dialogue about how people are raised and what it takes to change ingrained prejudices.  Changing thinking is core.  It does not happen overnight and it does not happen easily.  Witness the daily news.   We know wars don’t solve anything, yet there are wars.  We know assault weapons kill innocent people, yet you can buy them at Walmart.  Changing thinking is difficult.  Everyone has an investment in either keeping status quo, or in change.  That’s why we vote.  Thank you, Dr. King.

In the schools there have been many curriculum discussions on whether or not history is valuable.  Our past teaches us how to live our future.  I’m grateful that Dr. King laid the groundwork so that my granddaughter and ALL of our grandkids future can be filled with confidence and strength and love. . . not misunderstanding, fear and hate.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King

The movie “Selma”, based on the march of that same city, should be mandatory viewing for all children. . .no. . . all humans.  It’s up to us to make a better world.  Starting right now.

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