Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017
Every year I sit down to write a post for Martin Luther King Day, and I always struggle to find the right things to say. This year, those words are even harder to find, as Dr. King’s birthday falls just days before Trump’s presidential inauguration. It feels like our entire country is hanging off the edge of a cliff right now, with so many unanswered questions and so many years of uncertainty ahead of us. In some ways, we are so very far from realizing Dr. King’s dream, but in other ways, we have made it.
We’re saying goodbye to our first Black president, one of the most influential leaders in my lifetime, and the only president my children and their friends have ever known. I wish we were welcoming in the first female president, but that was not to be. Not yet. But millions of people are marching, and working together, and carrying their anger and frustration forward in ways not previously seen since the 1960s; and, as naive as it might seem, I have to take comfort in that.
My boys learn about Dr. King in school, and this year, we looked at pictures of him with his family. He was just 39 when he died, the age I’ll turn this year, and he left behind four young children. Many, many other children in our country have been orphaned after their fathers or mothers were senselessly killed by police, and many children are growing up without their parents, who are jailed for minor offenses. Our incoming president carries a deep hatred in his heart for those that are not like him, and many families fear separation or deportation. It’s a turbulent time, to say the least.
Now, perhaps more than ever, I’m aware of the whiteness of my skin and the privilege that comes with that. I realize that I’m raising white boys who will become white men, and it’s up to my husband and me to teach them love, compassion, empathy, and awareness. I want to be an ally without overstepping, and I want to listen and learn the best ways to help make things better. Right now, that means teaching my children the things I know to be true, so that hopefully they’ll take those things to heart as they grow.
Here are some essays and stories that I’ve found compelling or helpful recently, specifically regarding issues of race during this post-election period.
“Radical Brownies,” a short film that follows a group of young social activists in California.
“Self-segregation: How a personalized world is dividing Americans,” by Danah Boyd. President Obama talked about this phenomenon in his speech.