The day when we, collectively as a country, remember the actions of a great man.
Do you know that all 50 states didn't celebrate this holiday until 1993? That's right. Just 11 years ago there were still people that didn't think it was a day worth celebrating. (Sadly my home state of Arizona was always reluctant.)
I read a very interesting article on FB this morning about Dr. King's contribution to black people in the South. What he really did for them. You can read it HERE. The basic premise of the article though, is that Dr. King helped end the mental terrorism of BEING black in this country. I would listen to stories from my grandparents, who moved to Ohio before WWII. The places you didn't go. The hotels you couldn't stay in. The people you avoided. The way you spoke to white people. All based on the fear that one wrong move, or statement, or perceived slight towards a white person could leave you arrested at best, beaten or hanging from a tree at worst. These were real, legitimate fears.
Over the years I've heard many people say things along the lines of 'Black people should get over it', or 'That was a long time ago. Why are we still talking about this?'
To be clear. I don't hate white people. I don't walk around with some secret seething anger over what 'the man' has done to me and my people. That would be foolish, and a waste of energy. In college a white classmate once apologized to me for slavery and I looked at him like he was nuts. I asked him, 'Did you own slaves? Did your family?' His response was of course no. 'So what exactly are you apologizing for?'
I'm not looking for apologies. I'm not looking for reparations. I mean what would I do with 40 acres and a mule? It is important though, to remember what happened in this country. While movies like '12 Years A Slave' may make you uncomfortable, you should see it, or read about what happened to people like Solomon Northup. Read the stories of what it was like for people living in the South under Jim Crow laws. Read the history of the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights movement, the Antebellum period of the South. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you, it is a part of our collective American history and we need to know what happened.
I teach Boomer about American history when I can. I teach her about Black history when I can. She needs to understand that she can go to school wherever I send her, and that she is allowed to read, because someone before her fought for that right. Her great-great-great grandmother could read. It was illegal, because she was a slave, but someone taught her. Her great grandfather was the most brilliant man I know, but he wasn't able to go to college. He made sure all his children did, and then in turn made sure I did. We have to know our past. We have to.
So there is a difference between understanding what happened in our past, and not being willing to let it go. That being said, if anyone reading this is under the illusion that race is no longer an issue in this country. Go search the tweets about Richard Sherman last night. Especially those with the hashtag #nigger.