What Martin Luther King, Jr., Did For Me

I was at a Utah Jazz basketball game a couple of nights ago when at halftime, in honor of upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, they showed video clips of some of the (Black) Jazz players talking about how Dr. King had changed their lives. Today, as I listened to the "I Have A Dream" speech on the radio, I suddenly realized what Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement did for (White) me.

The tireless work of so many allowed me to grow up in a world where racism wasn't tolerated. Sure, it's still alive and well and can be found in every corner of the globe. But in my family, things changed drastically during my parents' generation so that by the time I came along I was raised with a very different understanding of the relationship between Blacks and Whites than my parents grew up with.

Thanks to the bravery of those who challenged the acceptability, the norm of racism, I wasn't raised to believe my grandmother's Black maid should eat in the kitchen while the meal she had prepared was eaten by the White family in the dining room. As a little girl, my mom knew intuitively that this practice was wrong. But had the Civil Rights movement not become a part of her maturing conscience and consciousness, who knows if she would have been able to hold onto that child's natural moral compass. Would she have eventually believed the logic about segregation as it was explained to her by my well-intentioned grandma? Would she have then passed it on to me?

When I see or hear racist propoganda, I'm amazed at the capacity of the human heart to hate just because it's been taught to do so. Thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr., and others like him, I'm not obligated to carry on a tradition of fear and injustice. Because of their work, many of us have been able to grow up with less hate in our hearts than we might have otherwise. I will probably never fully understand the feelings Black people have when they thank Dr. King for his contribution to their lives. But I won't ever forget how much White people, how much I, have to be thankful for, as well.

Leave a comment