“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of the skin, but by the content of their character.” (Martin Luther King, Jr. – 1963).
I am not a politically active person. I don’t even consider myself as politically aware as I should be. Today, however, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It is also just the second time that a Presidential Inauguration has fallen on this relatively new January ‘holiday.’ Whether or not I agree with his politics, the significance of seeing a black President sworn in on this day, in our lifetime, gives me pause to think. There was a day, not so long ago, when that would have seemed impossible.
Being married to a black man, I have learned this. We are all human beings. None of our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, or our ups and downs in marriage have had anything to do with the color of our skin. Certainly the two cultures are different, but not nearly as different as people seem to think. When we visit Georgia, any cultural differences are trumped by our love for his family. The same is true when we visit my family in California.
So, today, I took a moment to reflect on the points of progress we have made in overlooking color and concentrating on character, knowing full well that we have much more on that road to travel.
I commend a little rural school district in North Central Kansas that truly did look at my husband’s character and qualifications over his color, when they hired him as Principal of their High School in July. It has been a delight to see the acceptance and support he has had in his first school year there.
I salute my two beautiful daughters, who have learned to hold their head high in both black and white communities and who have endured the many inquiries as to their ethnicity. Thank you for entertaining the endless exclamations of “Your mom is WHITE?” and for being able to ignore the prejudice that is still evident if you venture out looking for it. I know it has not always been easy.
One thing we have noticed in our 25 years of marriage is that it is the children who continue to teach us what it really is to be color-blind. Perhaps our family’s favorite story is from Keegan, a young boy (now 10) who has known my husband, Steve, since he was little. Nearly six years ago, Steve invited him to come ‘help’ him at a track meet he was the Starter for. When Keegan saw Steve on the track he took off running, then came to a sudden stop. He turned around and yelled to his mom in astonishment, “Mom, Steve’s BLACK!” How he had not noticed that before still baffles (and amuses) our adult minds. It wasn’t until he saw Steve in shorts that he realized he was black!
We continue to laugh among ourselves at how I am the true minority in our family. One very white girl, with no rhythm and no idea that she would one day be surrounded by beautiful hues of brown in a family of great dancers.
In raising our girls, we often let them know that we didn’t care as much about what they decided to DO when they grow up as who they decided to BE. We are thankful for the additional doors that have been opened because of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. but for each one of us, whether black, white, brown or any other shade of color, it truly is the content of our character that matters.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.- 1963)
Growing In Character With You,