With the bliss of the holidays behind us, January in Chicago is pretty darn bleak. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the skies are generally grey and the buzz kill of returning to work after lazy days off, stuffing our faces and soaking in the warmth of family time, brings seasonal affective disorder (aptly named SAD) in full effect.
And that’s why, for many of us, Martin Luther King Day couldn’t come at a more opportune time. After painfully clocking it in for two full weeks of work and school, you made it to the holiday. And now to enjoy a wonderful day off to shorten the work week!
If you’re like me, you had big plans: either to sit squarely on your sofa and savor every last minute of the long weekend, or perhaps you planned to hit the errand list hard to make sure you crossed some essential things off your dreaded to-do list.
Tops on my list was to catch up on Facebook. I fired up the laptop and got to scrolling. How were people spending their day? There was homemade chili and jalapeno cornbread, sledding in what’s left of the meager snow, friends nursing hangovers from the Sunday night swill fest. All pretty standard fare…until I got to one horrific post.
“Apparently, my niece was told by her 'friend' they can't hang out anymore because she is half black and she will get in trouble by her parents. Really, this still happens?”
I stopped dead in my digital tracks. Here we are in 2012, nearly 50 years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and this type of racism still exists and happens every day across our country.
As a parent, I felt disgusted by the thought that someday my kids, who are bi-racial, might experience this kind of wretched bigotry. As a non-Caucasian person who feels completely integrated into the fabric of my work and life in the city, I was reminded of those who aren’t—and that any moment, I too could be subject to this kind of treatment. As an educated person, I was embarrassed by my lack of reflection on what this day really means.
Yes it’s nice to have the day off. But let’s never forget what we’re celebrating: Dr. King’s courage in the face of so much hate, his perseverance in the midst of such oppression, his leadership when so many were content to follow the status quo.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Ignorance cannot drive out ignorance. Only we can do that—by teaching our kids to understand differences, to find common ground, to accept others, no matter what race, creed or religion, and by remaining vigilant in the fight against this type of hate, whether we’ve got the day off or not!