Monday, January 19, 2009


MLK, Jr. Day

We've spent the day, today, reflecting on the reason it is a holiday, the man we honor and the changes that have occurred in the last 41 years.  We watched Tom Brokaw's documentary on the History Channel, and a show about the conspiracy theories surrounding Dr. King's assassination, and the one thing that strikes me most is that my children don't understand any of it.  I'm very thankful for that.

They don't understand why anyone would believe that a person should be judged by the color of his skin.  They don't understand how anyone would think they were better than another because their skin was lighter, or their economic situation was better.  I'm thankful that I have to explain it to them.  I'm thankful that it isn't a part of their values and ethics.

It has only been in the last year that I've heard them describe anyone by their skin color, and I'm pretty sure that comes from watching the evening news.  I've always loved to hear their descriptions of people - as a last resort, they might say, "he's tan," or "he's brown," but usually, they speak of height or occupation or to whom they are related.

I'd love to take all the credit for my children's color-blindness, but in reality, it goes back further than me.  In my family, it started with a couple of kids from deep in the heart of Alabama, who traveled the world and realized at some point that surface differences were minor and that people are, at the heart of the matter, the same - no matter where they came from or what color their skin is.  They welcomed everyone into their homes and encouraged us, their children, to do the same. 

In Dr. SmartyPants' family, it started with another couple of kids from Alabama who chose the medical profession as their livelihood and served for countless years anyone who needed help - extending their boundaries to include other countries and people who seemed very different from them, but are just the same where it really counts.

We are all a product of our ancestors, but we have a choice to make.  Our families could have chosen a path that many others in their families, in the south, on the entire spectrum of the color wheel, and all over our great country have - one of division and separation and fear.  But they walked a different road, chose a different path.  It reminds me of what Atticus Finch said to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."  And that's what makes the difference.

Because, like Scout said, "I think there's just one kind of folks.  Folks."