Please don’t get me wrong, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my idols. I know I’m not the only one who sees him in this light, but I may have a different reason.
For most, he is the face of civil rights for African Americans. This is absolutely true. In fact, when one looks up his name online, he is described as “the leader of the Civil Rights Movement”.
However, some people are so insightful, so positively brilliant, that their mark on the world lasts for decades. Even today, we are celebrating his life and the difference he has made in this country.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for his braveness to stand up for what is right. As he once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Because of his strength and his undying need for justice, I am able to work alongside people of other ethnicities and races, I was able to get a good education regardless of the color of my skin, and I am able to live my life freely without the stigma of being a bit different on the outside (for the most part).
That’s right. As some of my followers may not know, I am “black”. Actually I am mixed with Russian and Italian as well from my father, but I came out the color of coffee with a decent amount of cream. I sometimes forget that I am “black” until I catch a peek at myself in the mirror.
I just don’t consider myself a part of the community. Not because I don’t like being black. – it’s simply a color of the skin, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the person’s soul and personality. It’s because even these days, being “black” carries a certain connotation. There is this “culture” that has been created where the dress, songs, and behavior of black people is considered thuggish. Even I have that perception. The sagging pants, the profanities in rap songs, and doing illegal things (such as drugs and killing people normalized in rap music) is considered a “black” thing to do.
We are screaming, yelling to anyone who will care to listen, that not all black people act this way. But when people of other races attempt to adopt the style of clothes and music once considered “black”, we are quick to take responsibility for them. “Oh, he’s just trying to act black”. “He’s just a wigger.” I used to say that one, and I am ashamed to admit that.
But I look back on that now and I want to say, “You can HAVE that!” Go ahead and claim the things that make the African American community stand out TO THIS DAY, claim the things that make us STILL carry around a stigma wherever we go. I simply do not want it anymore. I prefer to lead by example. If we want pure equality, we have to offer it ourselves. We cannot expect to be treated the same as others when we don’t want others to DANCE the way we do. We don’t want people to strive for the type of hair we have or the for the fullness of our lips.
Remember when we were trying to make our lips LESS full? Remember when we were putting strong, harmful chemicals in our hair in an attempt to look more like white people? I do. There’s someone relaxing their hair right now as you read this, somewhere in America. I remember looking at a box of hair relaxer for kids in the hair care aisle at the store and begging my mom to get it for me. I remember in middle school when I tried to flat-iron my hair every week so people would think that was the way my hair really was. If ever I had to wear my hair curly, I stuck it in a dull ponytail resting at the nape of my neck, too ashamed of how I looked to figure out what to do with it.
After years of that stupidity, I realized that others are STRIVING to capture the look I have, spending hours trying to make their hair curly. It’s that “You always want what you can’t have” syndrome that people have these days. Nothing is ever good enough. But I was able to overcome it and became confident with my curls.
Here’s a picture of me when I was in high school,
shortly after I realized how beautiful my curls really are.
But I digress.
My point is, if we try to hold onto and “claim” the things that thugs do and call in “black culture”, absolutely nothing can change. I listen to rap music, and I use some “black slang”. That’s just who I am. But I definitely do not adopt the style of clothes, the disrespect toward others in public, the “life is just one big party” attitude that I perceive from some. Some might say I’m “trying to act white”. Well, if “acting white” is not being overly noisy and speaking properly and having respect for others, then yes I am.
But as Childish Gambino said, “We all look the same to the cops” in his song Hold You Down. And that’s the problem we have.
We can’t pretend to not notice the major issue America is facing right now, it’s a thick fog causing claustrophobia for every single person who considers themselves an American. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,” as Martin Luther King once said.
We are the land of the free, but there are millions of people who are not. That’s not to say that anyone is still being enslaved, but we still have people who are begging for their rights, begging to be treated the same as others. We have some people who aren’t allowed to marry just because it may make others uncomfortable, we have people who are losing their lives for what appears to be no reason at all.
MLK Day sucks simply because we went through an entire year of “realizing” these things, and when this day comes back around, where we celebrate a man who lost his life trying to convince people to treat others the way they want to be treated, we have completely forgotten everything he stood for. We make these posts, we watch videos, there’s a blurb on the news, we get holiday pay, the banks are closed, but that’s the extent of the holiday. We go about our lives, with blinders on so that we can more easily ignore the screams and cries of the people who are being wronged.
As we all know, the cries are falling on deaf ears. For some reason, unless you are directly affected by something, you can’t be bothered to fight against it. But that needs to stop. And no one party is at fault.
This is already getting longer than I intended it to be. It’s turning into more of a rant – one that is causing my fingers to cramp as they fly over the keyboard, and those are the best ones, so I may not go back and crop anything out. My point, as I clearly need to get to it, is that we all have a part to play to make this change. If we want America to be seen as truly equal, as truly free, we have to focus on the golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
Ask yourself if you would like to be denied the right to marry the person you love. Ask yourself if you would like to be denied the ability to practice your religion or denied the ability to NOT practice a religion at all and not be held down by their beliefs. Ask yourself if you would like to be MURDERED for no reason. Ask yourself if you want to continue to be looked at as a thug just because it’s considered “black culture” – just let it go.
That is how I celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. I start thinking about everything that is NOT equal in this country after all these years and I look for others trying to make the same changes. And I haven’t found anything yet, to be honest. Just a lot of people trying to point fingers at others, and all that comes of this is an Old West stand off situation in which absolutely nothing gets done.
FEATURED IMAGE FROM BOSTINNO