20 January, 2020
MLK Day is Just Another School Holiday
MLK Day is just another school holiday By Desiree Middleton copyright 2020 I was going to skim the internet and copy and past another banal platitude to MLK that ended with “black power”, or “Happy MLK day”, or “Black lives matter”, but the state of the nation and the world made me question what the point was. Why does anyone celebrate MLK day? Is it just another school holiday, or should it still matter? And if it should matter, why should anyone care? At least a dozen times a day, I hear the N-word used by students. Casual banter with their classmates. Hurled at each other as insults. When corrected by myself or other students, the perpetrators usually apologize. But in ALL cases, an hour later, a day later, they are back to using that word. I’ve erased the N word off of tables and out of books. Sometimes my name and a not nice picture of me is attached. Sometimes students erase it before I see it, warning me to stay away while they erase it—telling me after what it said. “I want you to understand the history of that word”, I’d say to the perpetrators. Or, “Here is why that word is offensive to me”. Social media and television continue to paint a picture of African Americans as whores and gang bangers. “Say something ghetto,” a student once told me. Now, today’s youth are not the only ones who have a skewed sense of what an African American is. My own culture group does as well. “Ugh, she’s at the beach sitting in the sun. Doesn't she know she’s black?” “Why do you talk like white people?” “Why don’t you write about (anything related to slavery), instead of this horror stuff?” Or what I heard growing up: “Why do you read so much?” So when it comes to MLK day do I go to the African American museum and read aloud, I have a dream, because it’s expected of me as an African American? The affluent African Americans from Beverly Hills will make their appearance at the museum and at parades. Shake hands. Even have a repas with middle and lower socioeconomic African Americans. Then the economic classes will divide like the Red Sea. Those affluent folk will get in their Mercedes while the others will hop the blue line or bus (or Prius), to go home; never to mix again until next MLK day. That’s the real tragedy. Or do I take what MLK stood for, and others after him, and put it into practice? As I write this I am listening to an African American cellist. Ooh he’s doing a non-African American thing. Watch out! I’ve seen enough in this world in the time I’ve been alive to know that equality is a moving target. That African American women have suffered atrocities so horrifying, reading eye witness accounts of them will make you physically ill. And I’ve seen hope. Hope is like a wildfire. It needs only the tiniest spark and breath of life to become alive. I choose hope. MLK had a dream. Along the way this country lost sight of that. Let MLK day be your reminder. Move past retweeting or posting an MLK speech. Do something to uplift someone.