It’s the beginning of January, 2007, and I am here, comfortable, in my home in Moab, Utah. It’s actually a second home. I live in Aspen, CO the rest of the year, but the place in Aspen is tiny, and “charming,” while this place in Moab is grand and expansive by comparison. It’s a real house, with a two-car garage, a great little back yard with a therapeutic hot tub, and an incredible gas grill. It’s on a corner lot, in an adorable little neighborhood.
As our nation enters the year 2007, and the month of January rushes into recent history, I am attentive. My holiday vacation is all too quickly coming to a close, so I take a gander at my calendar, hoping to see another reprieve from the daily grind in my near future. I can’t help it. It’s in my nature to not want my little slice of paradise to come to an end. I click in my Outlook through the weekends in January…I seem to recall a three day weekend in here somewhere… isn’t there a holiday? I think, as I finally come upon the second weekend in January. Ah…. There it is! I see that I’ve entered that my son has a three-day weekend starting on Saturday, the thirteenth. But surely there must be a holiday involved? What is it? I think, as I click to the Monday. Aha! Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! I knew there had to be a reason! I think to myself with a smile, proud of my diligence.
The day progressed, however, and this hint of uneasiness persistently tugged at my consciousness. While going about my day, I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. Perhaps, as every single white female reaches a certain age (over thirty, that is), she begins to remember all the wonderful golden nuggets she was taught as a girl in parochial school (okay, that part is just about me). Or could it be, that as I begin to approach the last third of my life, the part beyond my “after-thirty” years (I’ve always divided it that way: before thirty, after thirty… and beyond…), that I have become more responsibly reflective? Maybe I’m just more willing to allow information into my mind’s database that I determine to be “important and factual”? There was no denying it, though. This tug at what lies beneath my conscious mind would not rest.
It wasn’t until I finally stopped dead in my tracks while preparing a delicious pepper steak, complete with shallot gravy and grilled zucchini, that I realized what it was. I felt shame! As the gravy dripped off the spoon, and I stared into space, I felt ashamed that I not only didn’t know it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on that second weekend in January, but in truth, I really knew very little about the man, and the reason there was a day in his honor at all. Oh sure, I knew he was a great leader in the early stages of our nation’s Civil Rights Movement. I knew he was a beloved, revered and honored leader among both white and African Americans, who was senselessly and brutally assassinated. But that was all I knew.
One could excuse my ignorance, and absolve me of all guilt for simply being a victim of circumstance: I am a white woman, who was born in New Mexico, (a predominantly Hispanic, Native American and Caucasian state), and was raised in a culturally sheltered environment.
Like all good school children of my age, I learned all of the basics about Martin Luther King, Jr. I am sure I was taught some of the in-depth facts, but somehow they had escaped me.
I sat down at my computer and conducted a brief search about this man I knew little of. I learned that Martin Luther King was a very well educated man (he achieved a bachelor’s, masters and a doctorate degree, and then went on to become the recipient of several honorary degrees as well). Here I was, a child of private school (one of the best around), raised without the prejudices that many face each day, and a college degree had been reduced to the status of “long sought-after goal,” that called to me from the distant caverns of my soul.
This man, at the age of thirty-five, became the youngest recipient at the time, of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was not a man of great means, so I am certain the prize money of over fifty thousand dollars would have eased the burden, if not simply helped to cushion things a bit while raising his family, yet Mr. King opted to turn his prize money over to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
Not only was he well-educated, and extremely accomplished, he was a man of purpose who really lived what he believed and what he spoke about.
So, as I sit here, in my house in Moab, getting ready to serve pepper steak and zucchini, I realize the irony of my thoughts about Martin Luther King, Jr. as they compare to the reality of my existence. It would be easy to pass judgment, and think Who is this white chick, with her privileged life, thinking she can now relate to the civil rights cause? But there is no need. I am not ignorant to the fact that many of those Dr. King worked hard to liberate were impoverished and broken spirited. They knew nothing of the advantages afforded someone like me and my sheltered, parochial school life. Yet, even though Dr. King fought in the trenches against the injustices toward his fellow man, he soared with eagles as well. He respected men and women equally, whether wealthy or poor, well-educated or not. It would be more egregious for me, in my “privileged” situation, not to write about this great man. It is far better for me to pay homage to him, regardless of my social status, or level of Civil Rights ignorance.
I am not one to ponder or spend valuable time in consideration of the reasons behind our nation’s holidays, but in the case of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am supremely aware of how much more enriched my mind and consciousness has become from doing so. I will forever honor and revere the man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who overcame all odds to achieve great things on behalf of his people and his race.
Aside from our nation’s continued pursuit of civil rights among all Americans, there is no other statement that could capture the greatness of the man, validating all that he stood for, than to name a national holiday for him. I am proud of my nation and my government for recognizing and choosing to honor such a man of matchless integrity, courage and determination.
Copyright (c) 2007 Lisa Jey Davis