Who in the world…
As one of the “classroom moms,” I happened to be in Kate’s kindergarten room on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 1990. Mrs. Ara Johnson was explaining the basics of school segregation to the 20 or so pint-sized people seated on the green carpet before her. Not very many years ago, I recall her saying, little girls and boys with dark skin weren’t allowed to go to school with little boys and girls with white skin.
At which point a tiny voice chirped, “Well, THAT wasn’t very nice.”
The mom next to me laughed softly and asked, “Who in the world is that little girl?”
And I proudly answered, “She’s mine.”
In that small moment, one of my greatest dreams came true. Having grown up in a rural community that was virtually all Anglo, I really didn’t understand the countless dimensions of discrimination until college friends shared their personal stories. And in 1968 and 1969, those wounds were still bleeding. It had made me determined to raise a child, should I have a child, for whom color was not the first consideration. Perhaps not a consideration at all. And in that kindergarten class, with its gorgeous gathering of all-American children–whose parents, I knew, had come from Cambodia and Africa as well as Mexico and the U.S., I could feel it happening.
Today is the national holiday for Dr. King. He was a preacher. I’m not. The ongoing argument over whether or not his life merits such status is one I don’t care to entertain. I’m guessing he’d feel the same way.
I think he’d encourage us to put that energy to practical use by making one small thing better in our own neighborhoods, in the name of whatever higher power we have claimed or whatever ideal we cherish.
For who in the world are we if we don’t?
Photo: public domain