I may be slightly late in discussing my recent lessons on Martin Luther King; however, I find that diversity is a topic that doesn’t require a National Holiday in order to celebrate its importance. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up ever so fortunate. My parents celebrated the differences of others and allowed me the opportunity to experience and take part in various cultural celebrations and traditions outside of our own. I am also grateful that I lived in a small town with a very diverse population. Moving to Florida was, and still is, a bit of a culture shock for me. When my husband and I first moved down, there was a day that we went about our normal routine and by the end of it, I had realized that I only saw other white people. It didn’t seem normal to me. When mentioning this observation to others I got the sense that people felt as if I was overreacting to the situation. Throughout the past four years of living here I have revisited this thought multiple times and each time I become more mindful of the racism that still lies within our country. I am aware that being white, I could never imagine, or begin to speak to, the harm that discrimination causes; that isn’t what I am trying to do. This blog, however, is to hopefully get people to recognize and reflect upon actions that are brushed off on a regular basis that must not go ignored. We are taught at an early age to practice kindness, to stand up for equality, and to act upon what is right. So, why is that that we continuously ignore hateful/ignorant comments due to fact that it is easier not to be engaged in conflict? I’ve made the active decision that I will refuse to remain quiet. I refuse to allow people, regardless of their affiliation with myself or my family, to put down others due to their background.
My husband and I are a part of a recreational softball league and we recently won the championship game. We decided it would be fun to invite everyone over for some food and drinks to celebrate. One of the men who showed up, wasn’t someone I had ever had more than a two-minute conversation with; however, I thought it was nice of him to come. As the night went on, I described to him our business, mission, and even shared pictures of the last trip we made to the Boys and Girls Club. As we sat down to play a card game, he pointed out a statue that we had sitting on our “travel wall” from Cuba of a man playing bongos and proceeded to ask why we would ever consider having that in our home. He also used some derogatory language that took my breath away. I immediately saw red, attempted to explain why his words were so hurtful, and kicked him out of our house. The next day, he quit our team. I know that this will most likely not change his beliefs, but there must be consequences to the hateful actions of others.
After this encounter, it was my mission to ensure my students understood the power of having a voice. Tuesday morning as soon as the kids walked in we sat in a circle, closed our eyes, and listened to the I Have a Dream speech. Upon it’s ending, reactions came pouring out of their mouths that touched my soul. “I want the world to be a happier place”, “I don’t understand, all people are beautiful”, “I want to be just like Martin”, “How can we change the world?” Since our lessons on Martin Luther King Jr, there isn’t a day that goes by that his mission isn’t discussed amongst my students. This made me realize that I may not change the minds of all people, but I can try my best each day to shape the minds of the ones who can eventually transform this world.