No jokes today.
I was only 7 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I was very lucky to be in a school that understood that history was occurring, and as a consequence, we were permitted to watch the services for him. I remember all the other little second-graders carrying their chairs into our class to watch events proceed on TV. The very fact that we were watching TV in class was enough to have made an impression on me.
What did not make an impression was Dr. King himself; I was too young to be watching the news. I don't remember the riots, or the fact that because we lived so close to Baltimore, my parents were very nervous. My father was getting his Master's at Morgan State, a historically black school. A white face had reason to be afraid on that campus during that sad time, but some classmates of his saw him hesitating to walk to his car, and said, "Walk with us." They had learned the lesson of Dr. King.
My parents grew up in the '50s in a conservative area of the state, raised by parents who, may they rest in peace, were wonderful people but not racially enlightened. They were products of the time they grew up in. But in my home, there was never a racist comment or attitude. My parents had learned the lesson of Dr. King.
When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher for four years, Sra. Sandra Jones, was one of the best educators I had in a school with a lot of good teachers. After almost three full years of her teaching me, my mother had occasion to meet her. After a nice conversation, as Mom and I were leaving the building, my mother turned to me. "You never told me Sra. Jones was black." I responded, somewhat bemused, "I never thought about it!" Mom got a huge grin and told me that that made her very proud. I shrugged, but looking back, my parents had made sure that I had learned the lesson of Dr. King.
My family is a good example of the ability of all of us to break the cycle of hate. If children are taught tolerance and acceptance at home, what they hear outside the home will have little or no effect. I cannot listen to Dr. King's speech about his dream without being moved to tears. It's such a simple dream when you get right down to it. All children should be able to grow up to enjoy playing freely and happily...together. We must all live the lesson of Dr. King.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being sure I got to do just that.