Monday, January 16, 2006

A Sudiegirl reminiscence involving Martin Luther King, my nephew, and my dad...

Happy MLK Jr's birthday, everyone!

When I was a kid growing up in small-town Iowa in the '70's, we didn't touch on black history until maybe the 6th grade. At that time, I did a presentation on Eldridge Cleaver.

They are a lot more thorough now, thank goodness, but I have a story to share regarding black history, MLK, my nephew and my dad.

First of all, let me describe my dad's appearance to you. Through years of working in the sun (yardwork, farming, Post Office stuff, etc.), my dad developed a medium to dark tan on his face, hands and upper arms. He rarely if ever worked with his shirt off, so if you're just taking a brief look at him, you'd think he was dark all over. Apparently, that's what my nephew thought.

My nephew came home from school one day when they were working on the black history unit in his class and told my sister (his mom) , "John-Grandpa should be grateful to Martin Luther King and all he did for the brown people."

Ruthi was confused by this, and said, "What do you mean?" She knew that Dad wasn't racist, and that he recognized MLK as a very important leader. So what could this kid be talking about?

Cameron then explained that since John-Grandpa was one of the "brown people", MLK did a lot to make sure that he could do everything white people could do and not be separated just because he was brown, and therefore John-Grandpa should be thankful.

Ruth asked, "So, you think John-Grandpa is brown like your cousin Christopher?" (Cameron has a cousin on his dad's side that is mixed-race.)

Cameron said, "Yeah, and you know what? It must have been very hard for him and Grandma Mary to go together because they couldn't go anywhere together, not even CHURCH!"

Ruthi (in her usual, very good and thorough way) then explained that John Grandpa wasn't brown like Christpher, but tan from years of outside work. She also said that we should all be grateful for what Martin Luther King did for civil rights. Everyone in this country has benefited from MLK's wisdom and sacrifice, right down to a little boy in Iowa who learned more at his age than his mother or myself about Martin Luther King.

So happy birthday, MLK, and thank you for living a fearless life so we all can learn about you and others like you without fear, and with thankfulness.